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Not Just Us, Others Too Use Religious Symbols: Indian Union Muslim League Tells Supreme Court

New Age Islam News Bureau

21 March 2023


Photo: Live Law


• US Report Lists ‘Significant Human Rights’ Abuses Including Reported Targeting Of Religious Minorities in India

• Central London's Iconic West End Lights Up For Ramadan for the First Time Ever

• Kids' Unilateral Conversion to Islam Lawful, High Court Hears In Hindu Mum Judicial Review

• Pakistan’s CII Terms ‘Guru Culture’ In Transgender Community as Exploitation, Neo-Slavery



• Muslim Youth Termed 'Kafir' By His Community for Participating In Assamese Folk Dance Bihu

• Maharashtra: Hindutva Members Demand Exile of Muslim Family over Pro-Aurangzeb WhatsApp Status

• Hindutva Workers Booked For Rioting, Vandalism In Aurangabad Post Chavhanke’s Speech

• Will Revive All Welfare Schemes Once TDP Comes Into Power: Nara Lokesh Promises Muslims

• Maharashtra MLA Abu Azmi Demands Ouster of Minister Prabhat Lodha Over Love Jihad Claims in Assembly

• No Terrorist Given Govt Job in J&K, Have No Policy of Punishing Their Kin: Omar

• Mamata shuffles Muslim leadership, shows lessons learnt from Sagardighi bypoll loss

• Kerala HC declares A Raja’s election null and void: Can Christians, Muslims claim SC status?

• Two Meo-Muslim Haryana Congress MLas Flag Rising Right-Wing Attacks on Muslims

• Telangana Govt Reduces Work Hours for Muslim Employees for Ramzan


North America

• Biden pays tribute to Iranian women at Nowruz celebration

• Two decades after invasion, Americans view Iraq War as mistake: Poll

• NATO to continue to work with Iraq in fight against terrorism: Stoltenberg



• Far-Right Danish Politician Paludan Denied Entry to UK for Quran Burning Act

• EU’s top diplomat urges Israel to reject minister’s remarks that Palestinians don’t exist

• UK opens probe after Afghans in hiding told to receive Taliban-stamped papers for relocation

• Britain sanctions seven top officials from Iran’s IRGC

• Türkiye says it expects Sweden to prevent terrorist fundraising, recruitment, propaganda

• Rescuer from Greece’s Turkish minority praises support given in Türkiye


Southeast Asia

• PM Anwar: EPF as loan collateral will utilise Islamic financing loan method

• Minister: insurance Company ready to join ‘Rahmah’ initiative

• Salahuddin: 'Menu Rahmah' label maintained for non-halal affordable eateries, govt initiative is for all



• Imran Claims He Could Be Targeted During Court Depositions, Requests Chief Justice To Allow Him To Appear Virtually

• High-level deliberations equate PTI with ‘gang of miscreants’

• Punjab govt wants to ‘sabotage’ Minar-i-Pakistan rally: Imran

• Pakistan highlights Ramadan’s call for compassion, tolerance in message at UN

• Imran’s nephew re-arrested minutes after getting bail


South Asia

• Rohingya Refugees Ask For Citizenship, Rights Guarantee Before Myanmar Return

• ISIS Hideouts In Balkh Province Targeted In Substantial Strike: Taliban

• Bangladesh PM Sheikh Hasina offers India to use Chattogram, Sylhet ports

• Customs Duty on Essential Food Items Cut: Afghanistan

• Former Military Personnel in Dire Situation: Afghanistan Human Rights Commission


Arab World

• UAE Top Official Calls For End to War, Chaos in Syria after Assad Visit

• Saudi Arabia to Reopen Consulate in Damascus Soon

• Pro-Turkey Fighters Kill 4 Syria Kurds Celebrating Nowruz: Monitor

• Qassem Soleimani supported the US invasion of Iraq: Masoud Barzani

• Saudi project clears 1,027 Houthi mines in Yemen

• Lebanon fears repercussions of Syrian refugees staying in the country

• Permit Not Required For Prayer at Two Holy Mosques during Last 10 Days of Ramadan



• Saudi King Invites Iranian President to Pay Official Visit to Riyadh

• Palestinian PM: Israeli Minister’s ‘Inflammatory’ Remarks Sign Of ‘Racist Zionist Ideology’

• Israel Eases Palestinian Entry Restrictions to Aqsa Ahead Of Ramadan

• Israeli forces raid Shuafat refugee camp amid de-escalation calls ahead of Ramadan

• Iran Minister Interested In Developing ‘Peaceful’ Nuclear Energy with Russia: RIA

• EU extends Iran sanctions to judges, clerical council

• Top Israeli Minister: ‘No Such Thing’ As Palestinian People

• Yemeni government, Houthis to trade 887 inmates during Ramadan



• Tunisian President Saied’s Supporters Rally Against ‘Traitors’

• Sudan: Prices Up, Buying Power Down, As Sudan Shoppers Gear for Ramadan

• Jordan summons Israeli envoy to protest over flag of expanded Israel

• UN food agency suspends relief operations in South Sudan

Compiled by New Age Islam News Bureau



 Not Just Us, Others Too Use Religious Symbols: Indian Union Muslim League Tells Supreme Court


Photo: Live Law


Mar 21, 2023

NEW DELHI: Issued notice by the Supreme Court on a PIL for allegedly using name and symbol with religious connotations, Indian Union Muslim League (IUML) on Monday told the Supreme Court that there are many other political parties which should also be made party and be asked about using religious names and symbols, including BJP which is using the lotus as its symbol even though the flower is associated with Hindu Gods/Goddesses.

Opposing the PIL seeking cancelling the symbol and name allotted to parties for using religion in their name or carrying religious connotations in their symbol, senior advocate Dushyant Dave, appearing for IUML, told a bench of Justices MR Shah and CT Ravikumar that not all potentially affected political entities been arrayed as parties to the petition but only it and AIMIM. He said even BJP, Shiv Sena and Shiromani Akali Dal along with others be made party in the case for using religious names and symbols.

IUML placed a list of 28 parties from whom response should be sought for having names and symbols with religious connotation. Referring to the symbol of ‘Lotus’ used by BJP, it said it was very much related to Hindu Gods/Goddess and the same has been mentioned in the Bhagavad Gita.

Dave said the petitioner was not complying with SC’s earlier order to implead other parties also and submitted the court should not proceed in the case till other parties have also been impleaded in the proceedings. His plea was opposed by advocate Gaurav Bhatia who said the court should decide the important issue and enforce law which bars parties to invoke religion to appeal to voters.

Ex-attorney general KK Venugopal said the petitioner had not stated how his fundamental rights had been violated leading him PIL in the case and told the bench a similar plea is pending also in Delhi HC. The court said it would examine the objections raised against the PIL and sought details of the pending case in Delhi HC while posted the case for hearing after four weeks.

The PIL has been filed by former Uttar Pradesh Shia Waqf Board chairman Wasim Ahmed Rizvi.

Source: Times Of India

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US Report Lists ‘Significant Human Rights’ Abuses Including Reported Targeting Of Religious Minorities In India


Demonstrators attend a protest against riots following clashes between people demonstrating for and against a new citizenship law in New Delhi, India, March 3, 2020. REUTERS/Adnan Abidi


21 Mar 2023

WASHINGTON: The annual US report on human rights practices released on Monday listed “significant human rights issues” and abuses in India, including reported targeting of religious minorities, dissidents and journalists, the US state department said.

The findings come nearly a year after state secretary Antony Blinken said the US was monitoring what he described as a rise in human rights abuses in India by some government, police and prison officials, in a rare direct rebuke by Washington of the Asian nation’s rights record.

US criticism of India is rare due to close economic ties between the countries and India’s increasing importance for Washington to counter China in the region.

Significant human rights issues in India have included credible reports of the government or its agents conducting extrajudicial killings; torture or cruel, inhuman or degrading treatment or punishment by police and prison officials; political prisoners or detainees; and unjustified arrests or prosecutions of journalists, the US report added.

Advocacy groups have raised concerns over what they see as a deteriorating human rights situation in India in recent years under the Hindu nationalist Bharatiya Janata Party of Prime Minister Narendra Modi.

Human Rights Watch has said the Indian government’s policies and actions target Muslims while critics of Modi say his Hindu nationalist ruling party has fostered religious polarisation since coming to power in 2014.

Critics point to a 2019 citizenship law that the UN human rights office described as “fundamentally discriminatory” by excluding Muslim migrants from neighbouring countries; anti-conversion legislation that challenged the constitutionally protected right to freedom of belief; and revoking Muslim-majority Kashmir’s special status in 2019.

The government dismisses the accusations by saying its policies are aimed at the development of all communities.

In 2022, authorities also demolished what they described as illegal shops and properties, many of them owned by Muslims, in parts of India. Critics say the demolition drive was an attempt to intimidate India’s 200 million Muslims. The government defended the demolitions, saying they were enforcing the law.

“Human rights activists reported the government was allegedly targeting vocal critics from the Muslim community and using the bulldozers to destroy their homes and livelihoods” without due process, the US report released on Monday added.

Since Modi took office in 2014, India has slid from 140th in World Press Freedom Index, an annual ranking by non-profit Reporters Without Borders, to 150th place last year, its lowest ever. India has also topped the list for the highest number of internet shutdowns in the world for five years in a row, including in 2022, internet advocacy watchdog Access Now says.

“Civil society organisations expressed concern that the central government sometimes used Uapa (Unlawful Activities Prevention Act) to detain human rights activists and journalists,” the US report said.

Source: Free Malaysia Today

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Central London's Iconic West End Lights Up For Ramadan for the First Time Ever


Iconic West End decorated on the occasion of Ramadan


March 19, 2023

For the first time ever, Central London's iconic West End has been decorated to mark the holy Islamic month of Ramadan, which is expected to commence on Wednesday, pending sighting of the new moon.

London's Coventry Street, which connects two of the city's busiest squares – Piccadilly and Leicester Square has been illuminated with the message "Happy Ramadan" along with lights depicting crescent moons and stars and traditional lanterns known as fanoos which are commonly used to decorate streets across the Middle East for the fasting month, especially in Egypt where they are thought to have originated.

The West End is already a popular shopping and tourist destination and during Ramadan it isn't uncommon for surge in wealthy Gulf tourists during the fasting month, which has been referred to by the British media as the "Ramadan Rush". London also has the highest concentration of Muslims, with 15 per cent of Londoners describing themselves as Muslim.

The historic decorations come days after the Royal Mint, the UK's oldest company and official maker of coins announced that it had issued a gold-minted bullion, depicting the Kaaba in Islam's holiest site in Makkah.

Source: Middle East Monitor

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Kids' Unilateral Conversion to Islam Lawful, High Court Hears In Hindu Mum Judicial Review


Malay Mail/ Hindu mum Loh Siew Hong


By Kenneth Tee

21 Mar 2023

KUALA LUMPUR, March 21 — Perlis state religious authorities exercised their power lawfully when it allowed Hindu mum Loh Siew Hong's three children's unilateral conversion to Islam without her consent, the High Court heard today.

In today's virtual hearing, Perlis state legal advisor Mohd Radhi bin Abas said unilateral conversion of minors to Islam is allowed in the state pursuant to state law under Section 117(b) of the Administration of the Religion of Islam Enactment 2006.

He said the state had later introduced amendments by virtue of Section 7 of the Administration of the Religion of Islam (Amendment) Enactment 2016 to replace the word 'ibu dan bapa' to 'ibu atau bapa' to denote the clear intention of the legislature to allow conversion with either consent of parents.

Mohd Radhi who is representing the Registrar of Mualaf as well said the latter had thus exercised their powers legally in registering and issuing the certificate of conversion upon consent by the children's father.

He said the respondents were also relying on the interpretation of Section 160B of the Federal Constitution which states that where the Constitution has been translated into the national language, the Yang di-Pertuan Agong may prescribe the text as authoritative.

“Article 12(4) of the Constitution (on underage religious conversion) in Bahasa Malaysia provides 'parent' which denotes a singular parent,” he said.

However, in the 2018 decision, the Federal Court unanimously confirmed that the English text of the Federal Constitution is authoritative since it has not been shown that the Yang di-Pertuan Agong has prescribed the Malay translation to be authoritative.

High Court judge Datuk Wan Ahmad Farid Wan Salleh then asked Mohd Radhi whether he intended the court to depart from the Federal Court’s 2018 decision in M. Indira Gandhi’s case, further noting it was 'quite a tall order' to ask for a reversal of the decision by the country's apex court.

In response, Mohd Radhi urged the court to rely on the Federal Court's 2007 judgment in R. Subashini's case that any one parent had the right to convert a child since the court then was not directed to the evidence of necessary prescription of the national language translation in Indira Gandhi's case.

Lawyer Haniff Khatri Abdulla who appeared for the Religious and Malay Customs Council of Perlis (MAIP), said he was not requesting the court to depart from Indira's precedent but is accorded the liberty to choose which to follow based on the factual matrix of the case.

This he said arose from the conflicting decision between the cases of Subashini and Indira Gandhi heard by the Federal Court.

Appearing for Loh, lawyer A. Srimurugan said that the law is binding of the judicial pronouncement made by the apex court in Indira Gandhi’s case, citing judicial precedence or the doctrine of stare decisis.

He said the named respondents never disputed the fact on which Loh's three children were converted unilaterally, further stating the only issue before the court is the legal status of said conversions.

“What is the law as it stands today? It clearly says that unilateral conversion is null and void,” he said.

Stare decisis, meaning “to stand by things decided” in Latin is a judicial doctrine under which a court follows the principles, rules, or standards of its prior decisions or decisions of higher tribunals when deciding a subsequent case with arguably similar facts.

In his rebuttal, Srimurugan said the veracity of the Bahasa Malaysia version as prescribed by the Yang di-Pertuan Agong at a public function which was previously reported in the media was inconclusive.

Based on the local daily The Star's September 30, 2003, report, the then Yang di-Pertuan Agong launched the Malay translation of the Federal Constitution on September 29, 2003.

“The respondent's strongest evidence is a newspaper cutting. It is not an official source (from the government).

“There is also no letters from the Attorney-General Chambers confirming or rebutting the said official prescription,” he said.

After hearing submissions from parties, High Court judge Datuk Wan Ahmad Farid Wan Salleh later fixed May 11 for the decision.

In December 2019, Loh obtained interim custody of her children pending her divorce, but her court case was delayed when the country went into Covid-19 lockdown in March 2020; she finally obtained an order granting her full and sole custody in March 2021.

On February 21 last year, Loh was finally reunited with her children after the High Court granted her a writ of habeas corpus for an immediate release of her three children from alleged unlawful detention.

In June 2022, the High Court also quashed MAIP’s legal bid to intervene in a divorce petition between Loh and her ex-husband since it failed to show it was an interested party to be involved in the lives of the children when it applied for a variation on the terms of the sole custody order.

However, the June 2022 decision was set aside at the Court of Appeal in a three-judge panel’s unanimous decision in February this year, that would allow MAIP to file anew a bid to intervene for the purpose of varying a custody order granted to Loh.

Source: Malay Mail

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Pakistan’s CII Terms ‘Guru Culture’ In Transgender Community As Exploitation, Neo-Slavery


The Council of Islamic Ideology (CII) has termed ‘guru culture’ in the country's Khawaja Sira (non-binary gender) community a lethal form of exploitation and neo-slavery.—File photo


20th March 2023

Islamabad: Pakistan’s Council of Islamic Ideology (CII) has slammed the guru culture in the transgender community and has termed it as a lethal form of exploitation and neo-slavery.

In a statement, CII chair Qibla Ayaz said that “guru culture was against human rights and it should not be part of any act or rules to be framed for non-binary gender people”.

“I urge parents to take ownership of their non-binary gender children. The government should also set up rehabilitation centres to bring these people in the mainstream of the social spectrum,” he said.

“Health experts have confirmed this that non-binary gender people could be operated upon at every stage of life including childhood, or after attaining the age of youth or adulthood, in the light of modern medical science, transforming them into normal and productive citizens of the society except in a few cases.”

Referring to the identity of a transgender and demands of acknowledgment as a third gender, Ayaz said that the “self-perceived identity, in the perspective of Islam, was contrary to the teachings of Shariah and it could be a source of many unexpected issues in the future”.

“The provision of self-perceived identity must be abrogated from any act or rules,” he said.

Ayaz also opposed the word “transgender”, stating that the word was wrongly defined in the Transgender Persons (Rights of Protection) Rules, highlighting that it included those people who did not fall in their category.

“The word transgender should be replaced with intersex, because it was the umbrella term for that particular segment of the society,” he said.

The CII had previously opposed the Transgender Persons (Rights of Protection) Act in Parliament, stating that amendments should be incorporated in the law, as it maintained that many provisions and clauses did not fall in compatibility with the Shariah.

The 2018 Act for transgender persons defined their gender identity and prohibited discrimination against them.

The law ensured issuing of certificate of identity to transgender persons and provided that no establishment shall discriminate against them in matters relating to employment, recruitment, promotion and other related issues. It also provided for grievance redressal mechanism for the community in each establishment.

However, upon request for recommendations by the CII before approval of the bill by Parliament, it was countered by the CII, which raised questions and concerns over several provisions of the legislation.

Source: Siasat Daily

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Muslim Youth Termed 'Kafir' By His Community for Participating In Assamese Folk Dance Bihu

MARCH 20, 2023

A20-year-old Muslim youth was termed a “Kaafir" by his community for participating in Assam’s regional folk dance Bihu. It is a set of three important Assamese festivals in the state. The youth even claimed that he was “scrutinized from head to toe" by some people in his community because he participated in the Bihu dance.

The development comes days ahead of Guinness records on April 14, when the greatest ensemble of Bihu dancers will be seen in Assam as they attempt to take the vibrant folk dance of the state to a world platform. The youth, named Tajmahal Ali is from Murkokseleng village in Assam’s Jonai.

The youth also said he was watched as he performed Islamic customs like offering Namaz, keeping Roza (a fast) and reading Quran. “I have been dancing Bihu since childhood and have danced all forms of Bihu at some point of time on all platforms. As I belong to Islam, some people from my community say that belonging to Islam, I should not perform the dance," he said.

“They scrutinize me from head to toe as to what I am wearing to the masjid (mosque). Even though my family supports me, the Junabas (our teachers) call me Kafir and a curse to Islam. I feel hurt," he added.

With hardly a fortnight left for the state’s biggest festival marking the New Year, Rongali or Bohag bihu, preparations are underway in every village and city in Assam.

“On the other hand I receive lot of appreciation and adulation from the Hindu community who see my Bihu dance as an expression of my feeling” added Ali.

Preparations are underway in 31 districts of Assam in an effort to set a Guinness record for the world’s largest performance of Bihu on April 14 at the Sarusajai stadium in Guwahati, where 11,000 folk dancers shall take part.

Source: News18

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Maharashtra: Hindutva Members Demand Exile of Muslim Family over Pro-Aurangzeb WhatsApp Status

20th March 2023

After reports of a young Muslim man being arrested by the Vadgaon police in Maharashtra emerged, Hindutva groups took out a rally in Sawarde village demanding the accused’s family be exiled.

According to a local Marathi news Lokmat, the accused – Mohammed Momim – had put up a WhatsApp status on Mughal ruler Aurangzeb in reference to the recent name change of the city of Aurangabad.

Momim’s status was widely shared angering Hindutva members of his village. They staged a sit-in protest demanding strict action against Momim.

Mohammed Momim was finally arrested by the police on Sunday under Section 295 (Injuring or defiling place of worship with intent to insult the religion of any class) of the Indian Penal Code.

However, matters did not end here. Hindutva organisations took out a bike rally demanding the Sarpanch of the village declare Momim’s family as outcasts. They wanted the family to leave the village for good.

However, the Sarpanch refused to bow down to their demands. This angered the Hindutva organisations who went ahead and burnt a sugar sack warehouse as well as a tempo, allegedly owned by one of Momim’s relations.

They then reached the Vadgaon Police station and staged a demonstration demanding sedition charges be levelled against Momim.

As tension spiralled in Sawarde and the nearby villages of Minche and Peth Vadgaon, it was only after the police came to the spot did the mob calm down.

However, when spoke to a Vadgaon police officer, the officer declined to comment and said the reports of a Hindutva bike rally were false.

Source: Siasat Daily

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Hindutva workers booked for rioting, vandalism in Aurangabad post Chavhanke’s speech

20th March 2023

Members of a right-wing group, Hindu Jan Garjana Morcha, attacked a women’s public washroom, among other acts of violence, on Sunday afternoon in an attempt to remove the name ‘Aurangabad’ from its board.

In videos that surfaced and have now gone viral on social media, the group can be seen violently attacking the board over the public toilet for women, to break the portion that reads “Aurangabad Mahanagar Palika, Aurangabad (Aurangabad Municipal Corporation, Aurangabad).

Aurangabad was recently renamed Chhatrapati Sambhajinagar after Shivaji, in an attempt to erase the roots of the Muslim emperor Aurangzeb, often termed a tyrant by Hindu extremists.

A few right-wingers climbed over the slab of the toilet and hit the nameplate with bricks and hammers amid cheers, slogans and whistles from supporters.

The incident took place during a march organised by the Sakal Hindu Ekatrikaran Samiti in support of the decision to support the remaining of the city. The rally took place despite the police denying permission for the event.

According to the details of this incident, Hindu Jan Garjana Morcha members first pelted stones on the name board of the women’s toilet. On information, the police reached the spot following which the stone-pelting gang fled the scene, after this incident, the police increased security in the city.

The march commenced from Kranti Chowk and reached I.M. from Adalat Road Hall, in front of Vivekanand College reached Aurangpura from Niral Bazar through Samthargarh.

The rally also witnessed speeches by the editor-in-chief of Sudarshan News Suresh Chavhanke and suspended Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) MLA T Raja Singh.

Controversial leaders Chavhanke and Singh delivered communally charged speeches at the event that was attended by Maharashtra cabinet ministers employment guarantee scheme and horticulture minister Sandipan Bhumare and cooperative minister Atul Save alongside Shiv Sena MLA Pradeep Jaiswal and BJP MLA Shivendra Raje Bhosale were present.

Members of the Navnriman Sena, ISKCON, Vishva Hindu Parishad (VHP) and Bajrang Dal among others were also present.

In his communally charged speech, Chavhanke used derogatory terms to address Muslims whilst slamming Aurangzeb.

“There is no body of Arungzeb in his grave, Marahatas have done with him what America did with Osama bin Laden,” claimed Chavhanke challenging history writers to dig up his grave.

Garnering applause, Suresh Chavkanke expressed gratitude to Prime Minister Narendra Modi, Maharashtra chief minister Eknath Shinde, and Deputy chief minister Devendra Fadnavis for changing the name of the city, while taking an oath that Hindus will ensure that the name remains till the end of time.

“The name Chhatrapati Sambhajinagar has just been introduced for the city but it is now on us to change the entire image of this city.”

Now, all Hindus must ensure that we refrain to buy from shops that have Aurangabad on their nameplates. “We will economically boycott the ‘children of Aurangzeb’,” he said reiterating the economic boycott of Muslims traders.

The concussion of the event, where Chavhanke, delivered this speech witnessed the violence. Members of Sakal Hindu Ekatikaran Samhitihi went on a rampage and vandalized boards of several shops and posters that read Aurangabad instead of Sambhajinagar.

Following the incident, the Police Commissioner directed patrolling of the city until those participating in the march dispersed.

Seven FIRs including those for rioting and damage to public property have been registered against several suspects were registered.

According to the Times of India, among the seven, an FIR against Raja Singh and Chavhanke, who have been previously booked for hate speeches, has been registered under section 153 (A), for creating enmity between different groups of religions, race place, etc, of the Indian Penal Code (IPC),

Four FIRs have been filed at Kranti Chowk police station, while each is at Osanpura Vedantnagar ad MIDC Cidco police stations.

Police stated that as a result of communal speeches delivered at the event, some people from the crowd, on their way back home went on a rampage and started tearing off the banners, and flexes and bringing down nameplates bearing Aurangabad on them.

Source: Siasat Daily

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Will revive all welfare schemes once TDP comes into power: Nara Lokesh promises Muslims

Mar 20, 2023

KADIRI: TDP national general secretary Nara Lokesh promised the Muslim community leaders to revive all the welfare schemes implemented during the previous TDP regime soon after TDP came into power in the next elections.

He said that he would take personal care in resolving grievances.

Lokesh had a face-to-face with representatives of Muslim community at at PVR Grand Function Hall of Motukupalli of Kadiri assembly constituency on Monday. Responding to their complaints about the withdrawal of various welfare schemes by Jagan government, Lokesh promised them he will personally take every step to revive all the schemes once TDP coming into power.

He said that Jagan cheated the Muslim community. Lokesh promised to set up Islamic bank. Lokesh also had an interaction with Backward Classes (BCs) at the same venue and felt that the attacks on the community are on the rise in the YSRCP rule. The funds of the BC Corporation are being diverted and once the TDP is back into power, all the schemes that are discontinued will be revived, including the assistance for education abroad. Lokesh also assured the BC community representatives that the attacks on the BCs will be completely checked.

Meanwhile, Lokesh strongly condemned the attack on TDP legislators in the assembly on Monday. "The cruelty on the Dalit community continued even inside the Assembly," remarked Lokesh reacting to the attack on the party MLA, Dr Bala Veeranjaneya Swamy earlier in the day.

Veeranjaneya Swamy and another party MLA, Butchaiah Chowadary, called Lokesh over phone, when he began his padayatra, Yuva Galam, at Jogannapeta of Kadiri Assembly segment and informed him about the incident that took place inside the House. Strongly reacting to this, Lokesh said the incident is a blackspot on the democratic system. "Is it a crime of the Dalit MLA, who on the floor of the Assembly raised the issue of proclamation of the GO number 1, which is as old as that of the British regime. The GO is brought in only to suppress the voice of people," Lokesh remarked. With the attack on the MLA, the Chief Minister, YS Jagan Mohan Reddy, once again proved that he is completely against the Dalits.

The TDP national general secretary expressed surprise whether the people of the State are living in a democratic country or under a dictator. Demanding revocation of a GO, which is aimed at stifling the voice of the people, turned out to be a crime now, he observed.

Lokesh wanted all the democratic forces to strongly condemn Monday's incident and said that Butchaiah Chowadary is a leader who always upholds the values of democracy. "It is a black day in the history of the State as a person, who crossed 70 years of age and whom I respect as a grandfather, fell victim to such an attack," Lokesh said.

He said that YS Jagan and the other YSRCP leaders are in a frustration after the MLC poll results. Lokesh said that the TDP leaders and activists are waging a war against this psycho rule and called upon the party leaders to continue their fight as the party will stand by them.

Source: Times Of India

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Maharashtra MLA Abu Azmi demands ouster of minister Prabhat Lodha over love jihad claims in Assembly

March 20, 2023

Samajwadi Party MLA Abu Azmi on Monday demanded the resignation of Maharashtra’s Women and Child Welfare department Minister Mangal Prabhat Lodha for allegedly submitting ‘false’ information in the legislative assembly over ‘love jihad’.

Addressing the legislative assembly on Monday, Azmi said, “The minister earlier had said that Maharashtra had more than one lakh cases of love jihad which has upset even the Hindu society which is organising rallies across the state without permission and making inflammatory speeches.”

Azmi pointed out that information about ‘love jihad’ was sought from the inter-faith marriage committee that the state government has set up. “However we sought the information from the inter-faith marriage committee set up in December last year and till date, it has not received a single complaint of love-jihad. It means, he (Lodha) has lied to the house and he should be removed from his post,” said Azmi.

Ruling Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) legislators objected to Azmi’s remarks and demanded that he should be stopped from speaking. BJP MLA Atul Bhatkhalkar said, “If the minister has allegedly given wrong information, a breach of privilege motion can be filed against him. But he (SP MLA) cannot go on criticising him.”

Speaking to reporters later Azmi said, “I have also submitted a breach of privilege motion letter with the speaker of the Maharashtra Legislative Assembly. Lodha has given false information and he should be held accountable for giving wrong information to the people.”

Source: Indian Express

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No terrorist given govt job in J&K, have no policy of punishing their kin: Omar

Mar 21, 2023

JAMMU: Reacting to the remarks of Jammu and Kashmir Lieutenant Governor Manoj Sinha that 47 people were dismissed because of their alleged involvement in terror and anti-national activities, National Conference (NC) vice-president Omar Abdullah said Monday said that no terrorist was given government jobs by the erstwhile Jammu and Kashmir government, and neither were their (terrorists’) kin punished.

“Our party would not support any policy to punish relatives of terrorists as it is against natural justice,” said the senior NC leader while interacting with reporters after addressing a public rally at Majalta, Nagrota, on the outskirts of Jammu. “Is it fair for me to punish you for the crime committed by your father or a son?” he asked, adding that tomorrow, “God forbid a close relative of (Lt Governor) Manoj Sinha Sahab commits a crime, should he (Sinha) be sent to jail?”

Omar was responding to Sinha’s recent remarks that previous governments in Jammu and Kashmir provided jobs to terrorists and their families. “Natural justice is not that relatives are punished for the crimes of someone else,” he said. “Nobody is advocating that hardcore militants should be given government jobs, but it is also wrong to punish somebody just because they have the misfortune of being related to a terrorist. This is not the way to win the hearts and minds of the people. This is not something we will ever support,” he added.

Defending former Congress president Rahul Gandhi’s remarks about some women during the last leg of Bharat Jodo Yatra in January this year, the NC vice-president opined that the former hadn’t said anything wrong. “Is this not a fact that sexual violence is prevalent in India? Do we need Rahul Gandhi to tell us that? Open any newspaper, do we not hear cases of rape so what did Rahul Gandhi say that is so unusual?” he told reporters.

“He (Gandhi) did not say anything (on sexual violence) specific to Kashmir. He himself told me during the course of his foot march (Bharat Jodo Yatra) that women came up to him at numerous places and complained that they have been victims of sexual violence,” Omar said. On January 27, when the Bharat Jodo Yatra resumed its last leg in J&K, Omar had joined Rahul Gandhi to march in Banihal area of Ramban district.

Replying to a question about the cancellation of exams for recruitment in the Union Territory, Omar accused the J&K administration of playing with the future of job aspirants by engaging a tainted company to conduct recruitment examinations. “We want an inquiry into how APTECH, which is blacklisted across the country, was given a contract and where the scams had taken place… We heard the contract was cancelled but the youth are still not happy. You (LG) need to reassure the youth,” he added.

Earlier in his address, Omar lashed out at the J&K administration, saying: “Everyone living in Jammu and Kashmir is anxious today. No one knows when a new order dispossessing people of their lands will be issued by the ruling government.”

Source: Times Of India

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Mamata shuffles Muslim leadership, shows lessons learnt from Sagardighi bypoll loss

By Atri Mitra

March 21, 2023

One seat among 294 in the Vidhan Sabha, of which the Trinamool Congress (TMC) has 220 in its pocket. That’s Sagardighi constituency in Jangipur of Murshidabad district in West Bengal, which the ruling party unexpectedly lost to the Congress in a bypoll in February. But for Chief Minister Mamata Banerjee — bogged down by corruption scam allegations against party leaders since then — it is an uneasy portend requiring a change of tack.

And so, even though she publicly declared at a party meeting at her residence on Friday, and reiterated it at a meeting with Murshidabad leaders later, that the bypoll result of the Muslim-dominated Sagardighi seat didn’t indicate that the minority vote bank had deserted her party, and added for good measure that the TMC had lost because of its “own weaknesses”, the party Supremo has begun reshuffling her minority front ahead of the statewide Panchayat polls.

Soon after the Sagardighi setback, Mamata set up a five-member committee headed by Manteswar MLA Siddiqullah Chowdhury. She also raised the profile of the former West Bengal president of the Jamiat Ulema-e-Hind within the TMC by giving him the responsibility of three districts — Malda, Murshidabad and South Dinajpur — all minority-dominated. The Jamiat Ulema-e-Hind has deep roots among the Bengali-speaking Muslims of West Bengal.

Correspondingly, the profile of Firhad Hakim aka Bobby within the party was lowered, by taking away his responsibility for the districts of Murshidabad, Howrah and Hooghly. Bobby is identified as an Urdu-speaking Muslim leader.

The simultaneous moves point to an acknowledgement by Mamata of the persistence of a subterranean rift between the mainly rural Bengali-speaking Muslims of the state and their mainly urban Urdu-speaking co-religionists, and the coalescing of the former into a vote bank under the leadership of the Nawsad Siddique-led Indian Secular Front (ISF), which backed the Congress candidate in the Sagardighi bypoll.

A senior TMC leader said, “Siddiqullah Chowdhury is not only a leader among Bengali-speaking Muslims, but also has the Jamiat — a grassroots organisation — behind him.” Hinting at the Furfura Sharif-led ISF, he added, “No other organisation has a bigger reach among the state’s minorities. Mamata Banerjee used the Jamiat in the 2021 Assembly elections, which benefited the TMC. Now, she is again trying to use it for the panchayat elections.”

Mamata has also changed the minority face of the TMC. Removing Haroa MLA Haji Nurul, she made another young Muslim leader — Itahar MLA Mosaraf Hossain — the new state president of the TMC minority cell.

The senior leader added, “The CM desperately wants to rectify the mistakes that were identified after the Sagardighi bypoll. To buy time, she may also delay the panchayat polls from May to July, because our leadership is afraid the Sagardighi result may impact panchayat outcomes in districts like Birbhum, Murshidabad, Malda, East and West Burdwan.”

A section of TMC leaders believes Mamata’s criticism of the Congress since the bypoll setback is also meant to win back the minority voters. A Muslim TMC leader said, “Mamata Banerjee benefited from her identity as an anti-BJP figurehead among the state’s minorities in the 2021 Assembly elections. Before the 2023 panchayat polls and the 2024 Lok Sabha elections, she wants to revive that image. That’s why she is distancing herself from the Congress, so that the minorities are left with no option but to choose her to stop the BJP.”

Emboldened by the TMC’s recent poll and scam allegation setbacks, the state’s opposition parties, though, don’t believe Banerjee’s manoeuvrings will benefit her.

CPI(M) leader Sujan Chakraborty said, “The TMC may carry on with these permutations and combinations, but people can now easily differentiate between the TMC’s mask and real face. They realise that the TMC only seeks their votes, but bears no liability to society. They have already ruined the state.”

Source: Indian Express

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Kerala HC declares A Raja’s election null and void: Can Christians, Muslims claim SC status?

by Khadija Khan

March 21, 2023

The Kerala High Court Monday declared the election of CPI(M) legislator A Raja from the Devikulam Assembly constituency in Idukki district as null and void, holding that as a baptised Christian, he is ineligible to contest from a seat reserved for members of the Scheduled Castes (SC).

The order came in a plea filed by Congress candidate D Kumar who had lost the 2021 election to Raja. The plea alleged that Raja was a baptized Christian who cannot belong to the SC community after he changed his religion. Over the years, the judiciary and the legislature have examined the question of whether the SC status can extend to Muslim and Christian Dalits.

What is the Centre’s stand?

In November 2022, when the Apex Court considered this issue in ‘Centre for Public Interest Litigation and Another vs Union of India’, the Central government submitted that the Constitution (Scheduled Caste) Order, 1950 challenged in the present case was based on historical data which established that “no backwardness or oppression was ever faced by members of Christian or Islamic Society.”

The affidavit filed by the Centre added that the reason why Dalits convert to Islam or Christianity is to come out of the oppressive system of untouchability in Hinduism, which is not prevalent in either of the two religions.

The Centre also quoted a dissenting note from the National Commission for Religious and Linguistic Minorities report stating that Islam and Christianity are foreign religions that do not recognise the caste system. Conferring SC status on converts will amount to introducing the caste system in those religions, the report said.

Before this, on October 7, 2022, the Centre had established a three-member commission, headed by former CJI KG Balakrishnan, to examine the grant of SC status to persons who claimed to historically belong to the scheduled castes but had subsequently converted to religions other than the ones mentioned in the Presidential Orders issued under Article 341 of the Constitution. The Commission is scheduled to submit its report in 2024, while the question of reservations for Muslim & Christian Dalits remains unanswered before the Apex Court.

What is the Constitution (Scheduled Castes) Order, 1950?

In 1950, when the Constitution was being framed, the Constitution (Scheduled Castes) Order, was issued under Article 341 of the Constitution which says that the President may for any State or UT publicly notify and specify the “castes, races or tribes or parts of or groups within castes, races or tribes, which shall for the purposes of this Constitution be deemed to be Scheduled Caste.”

The original order was passed in 1950 and allowed only Hindus to be classified as SCs. However, it was later amended to include Sikhs in 1956, and Buddhists in 1990, in the wake of political pressure. Despite these amendments, no provisions were made to include backward communities within Christians and Muslims under the definition of SCs.

The two reports under the UPA Government

In October 2004, the UPA government headed by Dr Manmohan Singh established the National Commission for Religious and Linguistic Minorities, headed by erstwhile CJI Justice Ranganath Misra, to recommend measures for the welfare of socially and economically backward sections among religious and linguistic minorities.

Three years later, in May 2007, the Ranganath Misra Commission submitted its report, recommending a complete delinking of religion from the classification of Scheduled Castes. The Commission also recommended that reservations be made religion-neutral and that socio-economic criteria should be the basis for such a classification. However, Parliament rejected these recommendations on account of inadequate field data.

Source: Indian Express

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Two Meo-Muslim Haryana Congress Mlas Flag Rising Right-Wing Attacks On Muslims

Mar 21, 2023

Two Meo-Muslim MLAs in the Haryana assembly, Mohammad Illyas and Maman Khan on Monday flagged their community’s concern on the rising number of attacks allegedly from the right-wing groups.

The two Congress MLAs, who spoke during the discussion on the 2023-24 budget estimates in the state assembly, recounted the recent killings of Waris Khan, Junaid and Nazir Khan allegedly by Bajrang Dal activists and the indifference of police authorities.

Illyas, the Congress MLA from Punhana, said that in the past year, seven persons from the Meo-Muslim community have been killed by Bajrang Dal workers. “On Feb 15, two Meos, Nasir and Junaid were picked from Ghatmeeka in Rajasthan and burnt to death in Haryana’s Bhiwani. It has been a month, and the accused have not been arrested. I urge you to get them arrested,” the Punhana MLA said

Illyas said that they have no intention to kill anyone. “But our patience should not be construed as cowardice. We have laid lives for the country and can do it for ourselves also. If the Bajrang Dal workers do not stop these attacks, we can also retaliate,’’ Illyas said.

The Punhana MLA said communal violence never took place between Hindus and Muslims in their area. “The Bajrang Dal workers are using the issue of the cow as an excuse for vote bank politics. “Gai ka to inka bahana hai, vote lena inka nishana hai. We will hold a panchayat of Hindus and Muslims,’’ he said.

“We are from a nation which never accepted anyone’s subjugation. The Meo-Muslim community also did not accept anyone’s servitude,’’ Illyas said. The MLA said that Mahatma Gandhi had visited Ghasera in Mewat and stopped Meos from leaving the country during the partition. “But look how we are being treated now. In the past year, seven persons from our community have been killed by Bajrang Dal workers. Was staying back a crime? We never supported foreign powers including Muslims. We chose India over Pakistan and stayed back because Gandhiji had stopped us,” Illyas said.

Speaking about the law and order situation in the state, Congress MLA from Ferozepur Jhirka, Mamman Khan said that Haryana has turned into an unsafe state. “Waris Khan was killed. But the police did not register a case of murder under Section 302 of the IPC. Instead, the killings were shown as an accident,’’ the Congress MLA said. Maman Khan said that he was assured in the assembly that Rewari Range IG would inquire into the killing, but nothing has been done.

Source: Hindustan Times

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Telangana govt reduces work hours for Muslim employees for Ramzan

Mir Alamgir

20th March 2023

Hyderabad: The Telangana government has issued orders permitting all Muslim government employees/contract/out sourcing/boards/ public sector employees to leave offices/schools early by an hour during the month of Ramzan to offer prayers.

The orders will be in force from 23 March to 23 April.

Source: Siasat Daily

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North America


Biden pays tribute to Iranian women at Nowruz celebration

20 March ,2023

President Joe Biden used a White House event to mark Persian New Year on Monday to pay tribute to Iranian women and girls who took to the streets of Iran to protest following the death last year of 22-year-old Mahsa Amini and vowed to keep pressure on Tehran.

Biden said he wished the Nowruz holiday, a nearly 4,000-year-old tradition known as the Festival of Fire that’s linked to the Zoroastrian religion, would be a moment of “hope for the women of Iran fighting for their human rights and fundamental freedoms.”

“The United States stands with those brave women and all the citizens of Iran who are inspiring the world with their conviction,” Biden said, describing the reception as the biggest White House Nowruz celebration to date. “We’re going to continue to hold Iranian officials accountable for their attacks against their people.”

The United States, Europe and the United Kingdom have imposed a series of fresh sanctions on dozens of Iranian officials and organizations, including the country’s special military and police forces, for their violent clampdown.

The protests began in mid-September when Amini died after being arrested by Iran’s morality police for allegedly violating the Islamic Republic’s strict dress code.

Source: Al Arabiya

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Two decades after invasion, Americans view Iraq War as mistake: Poll

19 March 2023

Two decades after the United States and the United Kingdom invaded Iraq, the majority of Americans have come to the realization that the war, which left about a million people dead and ruined the Arab country, was a mistake, according to a poll.

The Axios/Ipsos poll released this week showed that while two-thirds of Americans approved of the military action in 2003, 61 percent now believe it was the wrong decision.

On March 20, 2003, the US and Britain invaded Iraq in blatant violation of international law and under the pretext of finding WMDs; but no such weapons were ever discovered in Iraq.

More than one million Iraqis were killed as the result of the US-led invasion, and subsequent occupation of the country, according to the California-based investigative organization Project Censored.

The US war in Iraq cost American taxpayers $1.7 trillion with an additional $490 billion in benefits owed to war veterans, expenses that could grow to more than $6 trillion over the next four decades counting interest, according to a study called Costs of War Project by the Watson Institute for International Studies at Brown University.

When the US ground invasion of Iraq began twenty years ago, just 26 percent of Americans in a Pew poll opposed the war.

While 83 percent of Republicans supported the invasion compared to 52 percent of Democrats.

Two decades later, 58 percent of Republicans still insist the US was right to invade. Only 26 percent of Democrats still think it was a good idea.

Sixty-seven percent of Americans don’t believe the war in Iraq made the US any safer, according to the Ipsos poll, which was conducted last week among 1,018 Americans over 18 years old.

‘To end war, prosecute US, UK officials who wage it illegally’

The world must finally put an end to the impunity of war criminals by holding US and UK officials responsible for launching the illegal war on Iraq, done without the approval of the UN Security Council, and prosecuting them under the Nuremberg principles, American journalist Don DeBar said.

DeBar told Press TV that the Iraq war was illegal from the very beginning.

"It is illegal for a nation to make war on another nation if it does not have the approval of the UN Security Council, if any of those nations are signatories to the original UN Charter. And it’s been adopted - that happened with the US as a charter member of the UN, and it was approved by the US Senate in 1940s. Consequently, the US involvement in Iraq from the beginning, and the UK involvement in Iraq from the beginning, was illegal,” he said.

“And under the Nuremberg standards, which would then apply, each and every death consequent – intentional or not - to either US or UK military action there, or condoning of the US action there by the media or public officials, or any act facilitating that, is an individual war crime. And, by the way, there’s a death penalty for that,” the journalist noted.

“No one will prosecute these people. That’s why I started with the word impunity. And we might bookend with that because that’s the problem. And until the world puts an end to that impunity, until the world sees the major contradiction in all international relations is US, UK, and EU imperialism, then it’s going to continue until this eats our species,” he stated.

A damning White House memo had revealed details of the so-called “deal in blood” forged by former British Prime Minister Tony Blair and US President George W. Bush over the Iraq war.

The document, titled “Secret... Memorandum for the President”, was sent by then-US Secretary of State Colin Powell to President Bush on March 28, 2002, a week before Bush’s summit with Blair at his Crawford ranch in Texas.

The sensational memo revealed that Blair had agreed to support the war a year before the invasion even started, while publicly the British prime minister was working to find a diplomatic solution to the crisis.

The document also disclosed that Blair agreed to act as a spin doctor for Bush and convince a skeptical public that Iraqi dictator Saddam Hussein had Weapons of Mass Destruction, which actually did not exist.

In response, Bush would flatter Blair and give the impression that London was not Washington’s poodle but an equal partner in the “special relationship.”

Source: Press TV

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NATO to continue to work with Iraq in fight against terrorism: Stoltenberg

Burak Bir 



NATO Secretary General Jens Stoltenberg said Monday that the military alliance will continue to work with Iraq in promoting stability and fighting terrorism.

Speaking in Brussels ahead of a meeting with Iraqi Foreign Minister Fuad Hussein, Stoltenberg said NATO attaches great importance to its training mission in Iraq, adding that NATO trainers work together with Iraq's Defense Ministry and Office of the National Security Advisor.

“And of course, everything we do in Iraq is in full respect of Iraq’s sovereignty and territorial integrity.

“It's based on your wish, your demand. But we are glad that we can continue to work together because we know that the fight against terrorism is something that matters for you,” he added.

“You have paid a high price in that fight, but we will stand with you and we will continue to work with Iraq in promoting stability and fighting terrorism.”

Hussein thanked NATO for its activities in Baghdad and said that relations between NATO and Iraq are "quite good and improving."

He expressed his gratitude to NATO for its mission in Baghdad.

"They are doing a great job training our people, and we are hoping that we can widen the task to other fields and we are ready to discuss that."

Source: Anadolu Agency

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Far-right Danish politician Paludan denied entry to UK for Quran burning act

Ahmet Gurhan Kartal 



Britain on Monday said far-right Danish politician Rasmus Paludan will be denied entry to the UK to carry out a provocative act of burning a copy of the Muslim holy book.

Responding to a question by Wakefield Labour MP Simon Lightwood, Home Office Minister for Security Tom Tugendhat said Paludan had been added to a "warnings index" and would not be allowed into the country to carry out a Quran burning.

"Far-right Islamophobic Danish politician Rasmus Paludan said he's going to travel from Denmark to Wakefield for the sole purpose of burning a Quran in a public place," Lightwood said as he was asking a question to home office ministers at the House of Commons.

"Mr. Paludan was previously jailed in Denmark for his hateful and racist statements. He's a dangerous man that should not be allowed into this country. Can the Home Secretary assure me and my community that the government is taking action to prevent this?" Lightwood asked.

Tugendhat said Paludan would not be allowed into the country for the act of burning a copy of the Quran.

"Now I inform the house that Mr. Paludan has been added to the warnings index and therefore his travel to the United Kingdom would not be conducive with the public good and he will not be allowed access," Tugendhat said.

Paludan on social media said last weekend that he would travel to the English city of Wakefield to burn a copy of the Quran on the first day of the holy month of Ramadan.

Paludan, who is the leader of the far-right Stram Kurs (Hard Line) party, burned a copy of the Quran outside the Turkish Embassy in Stockholm in January with police protection and permission from Swedish authorities.

Source: Anadolu Agency

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EU’s top diplomat urges Israel to reject minister’s remarks that Palestinians don’t exist

Agnes Szucs



The European Union’s foreign policy chief urged Israel on Monday to reject remarks by the Israeli finance minister denying the existence of the Palestinian nation.

Speaking at a news conference, Josep Borrell deplored Bezalel Smotrich’s “unacceptable” comments.

“Is there a Palestinian history or culture? There isn’t,” Smotrich said Sunday at a conference in Paris.

“There is no such thing as Palestinians because there is no such thing as a Palestinian people,” he added.

Borrell pointed out that these remarks “certainly cannot be tolerated” as they “go in the opposite direction” of reconciling Palestinians and Israelis and finding a long-lasting solution in the Middle East.

He called “on the Israeli government to disavow those comments and to start working together with all parties to defuse tensions.”

“I repeat, this is wrong, disrespectful, dangerous and counterproductive” in the current situation when tensions have been rising, Borrell asserted.

“Could you imagine if a Palestinian leader would have said the State of Israel doesn't exist?”

Borrell reiterated the EU’s commitment to a peaceful two-state solution.

Violence has escalated across the occupied territories in recent weeks amid repeated Israeli military raids into Palestinian towns.

Source: Anadolu Agency

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UK opens probe after Afghans in hiding told to receive Taliban-stamped papers for relocation

March 20, 2023

LONDON: The UK’s Ministry of Defence has opened an investigation in the wake of a report by The Independent that revealed Afghan refugees had been asked to provide Taliban-approved documents for relocation to Britain.

The 37 applicants to the UK’s Afghan Relocations and Assistance Policy — launched after the Taliban takeover in 2021 — were told by authorities that they needed to show documents that could only be signed by government ministries in Taliban-controlled Afghanistan.

The MoD’s demand was “asking them (the refugees) to sign their own death warrant,” one MP said, with charities warning that Afghans had been put in danger as a result of the request.

As a result of the newspaper’s report, the ministry apologized “unreservedly” for the error after initially denying that the demands had been made to the 37 applicants.

A ministry spokesperson also told The Independent that it would now carry out an investigation, saying: “Last month, we were notified of an error in recent communications with a group of ARAP applicants, instructing them to verify documents with local authorities.

“The 37 affected applicants were notified of the error and have since responded to the correct instructions and confirmed they are currently safe.

“The MoD is now conducting a review to identify any further remedial actions needed to strengthen policies and processes.”

The newspaper’s investigation found several instances of Afghans in hiding who had been told to request documents from various Afghan ministries.

One former interpreter for British forces was told by the MoD that his marriage certificate, as well as the birth certificates of his children, needed to be validated by Afghanistan’s Ministry of Foreign Affairs.

He visited the Ministry of Justice to receive validation of his marriage certificate, but due to living in hiding, has been unable to communicate with the Foreign Ministry, meaning his ARAP application is unlikely to be approved by UK authorities under the current circumstances.

The MoD told another applicant regarding his children’s birth certificates: “These documents are an essential requirement and really need to be provided. They should be in English and bear the (Afghan) Ministry of Foreign Affairs seal and other necessary department stamps.”

About 4,600 Afghans still in the country are eligible for relocation to the UK under ARAP, including family members.

Source: Arab News

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Britain sanctions seven top officials from Iran’s IRGC

20 March ,2023

Britain on Monday sanctioned senior officials from the Islamic Revolutionary Guard Corps (IRGC), including those who it said were responsible for managing the group’s financial investments.

The sanctions - an asset freeze and UK travel ban - were imposed on five members on the Board of Directors of the IRGC Co-operative Foundation and two senior IRGC commanders operating in Tehran and Alborz provinces.

Britain, along with the European Union and the United States, has in recent months issued several waves of sanctions against Iran, citing a widespread and often violent crackdown on protests after the death of young Iranian Kurdish woman Mahsa Amini in morality police custody in September.

The protests mark one of the boldest challenges to the ruling theocracy since the 1979 Islamic Revolution. Iran accuses Western powers of fomenting the unrest, which security forces have met with deadly violence.

“Today we are taking action on the senior leaders within the IRGC who are responsible for funneling money into the regime's brutal repression,” Foreign Secretary James Cleverly said.

Source: Al Arabiya

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Türkiye says it expects Sweden to prevent terrorist fundraising, recruitment, propaganda

Busra Nur Cakmak and Burak Bir 


Türkiye expects Sweden to prevent fundraising, recruitment, and propaganda by terrorist groups on its soil, the Turkish foreign minister said on Monday.

"We welcome positive steps taken by Sweden but it still falls short," Mevlut Cavusoglu said at a joint press conference with senior EU and Swedish officials following an international donors' conference to support the victims of last month's earthquakes in Türkiye and Syria.

Responding to a question on Sweden’s NATO bid, Cavusoglu said Türkiye had no issues with Finland's accession but that both NATO and the Nordic countries wanted to treat Sweden and Finland equally.

"We have demonstrated our goodwill, now the parliament has the power to ratify their membership," Cavusoglu told reporters alongside EU Commissioner for Neighbourhood and Enlargement Oliver Varhelyi and Sweden's Minister for International Development Cooperation and Foreign Trade Johan Forssell.

He also reiterated that Türkiye supports NATO's open door policy.

Abandoning decades of military non-alignment, Finland and Sweden formally applied to join NATO last May.

However, Türkiye, a longstanding NATO member, asked the two Nordic states to take concrete action against terror groups like the PKK and FETO.

In June, Finland and Sweden signed a memorandum with Türkiye to address Ankara’s security concerns, and senior diplomats and officials from the three countries have held various meetings since then to discuss the implementation of the trilateral agreement.

Meanwhile, Sweden passed an anti-terror law last November, hoping that Ankara would approve Stockholm’s bid to join the NATO alliance. The new law, which will go into force on June 1, will allow Swedish authorities to prosecute individuals who support terrorist organizations.

Türkiye on Friday said it would approve the process of Finland's NATO membership protocol in its parliament. 

Donors' conference

On the donor’s conference, Cavusoglu said Türkiye had been at the forefront of helping countries in need and was grateful to see the same kind of solidarity after the earthquakes.

For his part, EU Commissioner Varhelyi said the fundraiser would provide "significant help" to Turkish partners and allies as they concentrate their efforts on reconstruction.

He said that more than half of the $7.5 billion in funding that the event gathered was raised by European institutions and EU member states.

"This is also a very strong political commitment and very strong emotional commitment. Also, both with the country and with its people that you can always count on Europe and not only in trouble," Varhelyi added.

Sweden's Minister Johan Forssell also noted that the Swedish EU Council presidency had reacted immediately when the earthquakes hit Türkiye on Feb. 6, to help alleviate the plight of victims.

"Today we have seen the result of our common initiative," he added.

- Syria

On Türkiye's recent "engagement" with the Syrian regime, Cavusoglu said these efforts aimed to stabilize the war-torn country and did not amount to "normalization."

"The aim of these efforts is to end the chaos, instability, and internal conflicts in Syria, which has lasted for more than 11 years, permanently," said the Turkish foreign minister.

Noting that there had been many platforms and initiatives launched on Syria since the war began in 2011, Cavusoglu said the only surviving mechanism was the Astana format.

"The refugees can't return (to Syria). The terrorist organization PKK/YPG is strengthening its position every day to divide the country due unfortunately to the support given them by some of our allies, especially the US," he added.

Emphasizing that people living in the country continued to suffer under difficult circumstances, Cavusoglu said a many of the refugees currently in Türkiye wanted to return on their own accord, but that conditions were not suitable.

Elections in Syria must be carried out within the framework of UN Security Council resolution 2254, he said, adding: "Only with a political solution can the unity of the country be established."

Reiterating Türkiye's support for Syria's territorial integrity, Cavusoglu said the international community needed to make the distinction between reconstruction and aid to local residents and those who will return.

"We know that there can be no reconstruction without lasting peace. Not only us, but Arab countries are also now engaged and negotiating so migrants can return to Syria.

"In this way, the international community should at least engage with the regime, especially UNHCR (UN High Commissioner for Refugees), through international organizations," he said.

More than 50,000 people were killed in powerful earthquakes that struck southern Türkiye on Feb. 6.

The magnitude 7.7 and 7.6 earthquakes, centered in Kahramanmaras province, affected more than 13 million people across 11 provinces, including Adana, Adiyaman, Diyarbakir, Gaziantep, Hatay, Kilis, Malatya, Osmaniye, Elazig and Sanliurfa.

Source: Anadolu Agency

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Rescuer from Greece’s Turkish minority praises support given in Türkiye

Ahmet Gencturk


A rescuer from Greece’s Turkish Muslim minority praised the support his team received by Turkish authorities and people in the quake-stricken southeastern Adiyaman province.

Speaking to Anadolu, 30-year-old Hakan Boz Ali, hailing from Asagikoy (Arsakion) village of Gumulcine (Komotini) province in the Western Thrace and a member of the "Hellenic Rescue Team", stressed that they were in close and constant coordination with the corresponding Turkish authorities from the very beginning.

Considering the fact that we were 30 volunteer rescuers, accompanied by a rescue dog, with over one ton of equipment and stuff with us, Turkish local authorities’ help was vital in our operations, he added.

“Particularly efforts of the Turkish Disaster and Emergency Management Presidency (AFAD), which did its utmost best professionally and sincerely in facilitating our work in Adiyaman was remarkable,” Ali said.

Furthermore, he said, the inter-agency coordination of the state bodies and their cooperation with foreign rescue teams were noteworthy.

Ali drew attention to the fact that they had to work under bad weather conditions but the heart-warming reception by local people kept them going.

Our team pulled two people alive from the rubble, and this made us feel very happy and fulfilled, he added.

“I particularly recall a big thank you by a little kid,” Ali said.

He added that both Greek and Turkish communities in Western Thrace have been very enthusiastic about helping victims of the quakes in Türkiye as shown by still ongoing aid campaigns.

Source: Anadolu Agency

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Southeast Asia


PM Anwar: EPF as loan collateral will utilise Islamic financing loan method

By Soo Wern Jun

21 Mar 2023

KUALA LUMPUR, March 21 — Prime Minister Datuk Seri Anwar Ibrahim today said that the government will utilitise Islamic financing loan method in relation to emergency loans made with EPF (Employees’ Provident Fund) saving as collateral.

He said this will ensure that service cost is kept at a minimal.

"The instrument we will use is Islamic financing so that the service cost is minimal.

"But we won’t use measures taken by conventional banks, however, we will not prevent if there are members who are Muslim or especially non-Muslims who choose to borrow through conventional methods.

"For EPF, it has chosen to ask members to use the Islamic financing loan method with the lowest interest rate, which is of course lower than the market loan rate,” Anwar told the Parliament today during the Prime Minister’s Question Time.

He added that for withdrawals from EPF Account 2, guidelines and criteria have not changed.

On March 9, Anwar, who is also the finance minister, announced that the government is deliberating to greenlight the use of EPF savings as collateral for emergency loans, following repeated calls from the Opposition to allow further withdrawals.

In his winding-up speech for the policy stage of Budget 2023, Anwar pointed out that this would only apply to those who are really struggling with their financial circumstances.

Anwar also stressed that it was unfair to make Malaysians keep dipping into their retirement savings when these have already been drawn down repeatedly during the Covid-19 pandemic, saying the government would instead look for alternatives to help.

When asked by Umno’s Sungai Besar MP Datuk Muslimin Yahaya if the savings used as collateral would contravene the EPF Act, Anwar said EPF legal advisers and the attorney general have been consulted, and there is no contradiction with Section 51 of the EPF Act.

“However, in terms of guarantee, the interest of the borrower is preserved; for example, the dividend will continue, even if collateral is given, for example the borrower makes RM50,000 as a loan, but the dividend will be given in full according to the original EPF (regulations).

“(It will) not (be) deducted. So EPF feels that in a few years, returns will be obtained, so if some small amount fails to make repayment, it is not affected seriously because the principal amount and dividends have been added and deducted, and from the dividend angle, the risk, as I understand, it is very minimal,” Anwar said.

Acknowledging grouses on the ground, Anwar said he had explained that EPF is not the only method utilised by the government to help reduce the burden of farmers and fishermen.

“Don’t consider the EPF as the only way to ease their burden, that’s one.

Source: Malay Mail

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Minister: Insurance company ready to join ‘Rahmah’ initiative

By Shahrin Aizat Noorshahrizam

20 Mar 2023

KUALA LUMPUR, March 20 — Domestic Trade and Cost of Living Minister Datuk Seri Salahuddin Ayub today said that the government’s plan to expand the ‘Rahmah’ initiative to offer affordable insurance coverage has received positive feedback from providers.

Speaking to reporters, Salahuddin said that the ministry has reached Maybank insurance arm Etiqa Holdings Berhad and had received positive feedback.

“The first to respond was the Etiqa company and I have already asked officials to hold a meeting so we can see how we can make this initiative a success.

“Perhaps we can offer ‘Rahmah’ insurance whether it’s (covering) vehicles, housing, property and such,” he said after attending the Menu Rahmah Feast at Parliament today.

Last month, the national news agency Bernama reported that Salahuddin as saying that the Rahmah initiative may soon include the banking and insurance industry.

Previously, the ministry launched a low-cost ready-made meal dubbed “Menu Rahmah” as a short-term plan to remedy the rising cost of food due to the global inflation crisis.

Around 12,000 premises are currently offering Menu Rahmah, including restaurants affiliated with the Malaysian Indian Restaurant Owners Association, the Malaysian Muslim Restaurant Owners Association, Malaysia Singapore Coffee Shop Proprietors General Association and Mydin supermarket outlets nationwide.

Source: Malay Mail

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Salahuddin: 'Menu Rahmah' label maintained for non-halal affordable eateries, govt initiative is for all

By Shahrin Aizat Noorshahrizam

19 Mar 2023

KUALA LUMPUR, March 19 — Minister of Domestic Trade and Costs of Living Datuk Seri Salahuddin Ayub said the “Menu Rahmah” affordable food initiative will be extended to non-halal restaurants nationwide, so needy non-Muslims can also benefit when dining in their preferred outlets.

Salahuddin who mooted the initiative told Malay Mail during an interview that the term “rahmah” itself means compassion that goes beyond race and religion, despite its Arabic roots and usage in Islam.

“We use the ‘Rahmah’ [label] for other packages so why stop at non-halal food, ‘Rahmah’ is for all,” he said during the recent interview at Companies Commission of Malaysia (SSM) headquarters here.

Falling under the “Payung Rahmah” grand initiative, the tags also encompass the “Bakul Rahmah” groceries aid, “Pakej Rahmah” package of 10 essential goods sold at cheaper prices, the “Jualan Rahmah” series of sales by supermarkets, and “Kafe Rahmah” — an expansion of “Menu Rahmah” to serve students.

The minister also said that he had previously proposed for the initiative to be expanded to non-halal restaurants but with a different name: “Menu Kasih Sayang”.

Salahuddin admitted his concerns about how certain parties might have a different perspective on the decision to maintain the “Rahmah” label for non-halal food despite its non-religious connotation.

This comes amid a heightened ethnic and religious atmosphere in the past few weeks following inflammatory remarks from Perikatan Nasional leaders.

However, Salahuddin told Malay Mail he strongly believes that Malaysians particularly Muslims would understand that the label was coined for the government’s initiative to help the poor’s welfare regardless of ethnicity and belief.

“We want to promote inclusiveness, [the ‘Rahmah’ initiative] is for all, that’s the most important thing. Islam teaches us that a government has to help everyone, we cannot segregate or discriminate,” he added.

Salahuddin said the plan is already in place as the ministry has engaged non-halal eateries associations and had received positive feedback with many expressing interest in the initiative.

Addressing a backbencher’s concern about the lack of vegetarian food options at rest and service areas (R&Rs) nationwide, Salahuddin said the ministry will bring the matter to the Cabinet meeting for further deliberations.

“I will discuss with relevant stakeholders and other ministries on the matter,” he said.

Previously, Pakatan Harapan’s (PH) Ipoh Barat MP M.Kulasegaran had voiced in Parliament his concern that there was a lack of vegetarian options at most of the R&Rs.

Prime Minister Datuk Seri Anwar Ibrahim, who is also the finance minister, had vowed to address cost-of-living issues, pledging that it would be his top priority.

This came amid shaky public confidence in his Cabinet line-up after he appointed several leaders from past administrations accused of poor management of the economy.

Menu Rahmah was launched on January 31 by Salahuddin as part of the unity government’s short-term efforts to mitigate the inflation squeeze on low-income earners.

Around 12,000 premises are currently offering Menu Rahmah, including restaurants affiliated with the Malaysian Indian Restaurant Owners Association, the Malaysian Muslim Restaurant Owners Association, Malaysia Singapore Coffee Shop Proprietors General Association and Mydin supermarket outlets nationwide.

Source: Malay Mail

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Imran claims he could be targeted during court depositions, requests chief justice to allow him to appear virtually

Mar 21, 2023

LAHORE: Pakistan's ousted prime minister Imran Khan has requested the country's chief justice to allow him to join court proceedings through a video link in cases lodged against him, claiming he could be killed if he deposes physically.

In a letter to Chief Justice of Pakistan Umar Atta Bandial on Monday, the embattled PTI chief also urged him to club the cases registered against him.

"A death trap was laid out at the Federal Judicial Complex, Islamabad on Saturday last where I had to attend a hearing in the Toshakhana gifts case. Some 20 namaloom afraad (unknown people) -- a reference to intelligence agencies men -- were present in the complex to kill me," Khan said during an address to the nation on Monday.

He also played a video which showed the purported suspects in plainclothes present in the judicial complex carrying plastic handcuffs.

Khan's Pakistan Tehreek-i-Insaf (PTI) alleged these men planned to strangulate Khan with the rope they were holding.

The PTI chief requested the CJP to investigate as how these 20 or so "unknown people" managed to enter the high security zone (judicial complex). "In fact they were stationed there to kill me."

"if I keep being exposed like this then it won't take too long for them to kill me," Khan said.

Referring to social media trends in Pakistan against the army leadership, Khan said, "Attempts are being made to pit my party against the army and at the same time the PMLN-led coalition government is trying its best to turn the army against me and PTI."

There had been clashes between the law-enforcement agencies and PTI workers in Lahore and Islamabad during court appearances and attempt to arrest Imran Khan over the past one week.

Scores of PTI workers and policemen have been injured in these clashes. Police have arrested more than 300 PTI workers from Lahore, Rawalpindi and Islamabad and slapped terrorism charges on them.

The cricketer-turned-politician has also been booked in close to 100 cases facing charges like terrorism, murder, blasphemy, attempted murder and treason.

Source: Times Of India

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High-level deliberations equate PTI with ‘gang of miscreants’

Syed Irfan Raza

March 21, 2023

ISLAMABAD: A couple of marathon meetings of the country’s civilian and military high command took an extremely unfavourable view of the PTI’s ongoing protest movement, terming the party “a gang of miscreants trained by banned organisations rather than a political party” and vowing to proceed against it as per law.

The huddles decided to take stern action against the protesting leaders and workers of the PTI who, when Imran Khan was supposed to appear before a court hearing the Toshakhana case, “brutally beat police personnel, set official vehicles on fire, used petrol bombs against police and created unrest”.

The first meeting, chaired by PM Shehbaz Sharif, was attended by ministers and representatives of ruling coalition partners and lasted around five hours. The second meeting, Defence Minister Khawaja Asif told the media on Monday night, lasted an hour and was also attended by Chief of Army Staff Gen Asim Munir and Inter-Services Intelligence (ISI) Director General Lt Gen Nadeem Anjum.

According to an official statement issued after the meetings, the two sittings agreed to take stern action against those involved in violent protests and the ransacking of public and private property. The huddles also agreed that elections to the national and provincial assemblies should be held simultaneously.

The meeting also decided to take action against those involved in maligning state institutions, including the armed forces and judiciary, through a “smear campaign”.

“The meeting strongly condemned attacks on police and Rangers, who were obeying court orders, and called it an enmity against the state,” the statement said.

“All evidences and proofs are available, under which stern action will be taken against those involved in the unrest,” it added.

The meeting condemned “a smear campaign against the army and army chief on social media” and urged people not to become part of it. It observed that the impression that Imran Khan and his followers were being given “special treatment” was getting stronger. The statement noted that “two standards of justice” will not be accepted.

The participants also expressed concern over a recent audio tape of ex-chief justice Saqib Nisar and PTI lawyer Khawaja Tariq Rahim and condemned “objectionable” remarks about PML-N Vice President Maryam Nawaz.

The official statement said that the PTI was not acting like a political party, rather resembled “a gang of miscreants trained by outlawed groups” and asserted that violence by its workers against security personnel would not be tolerated.

According to the statement, a joint session of parliament would be held on Wednesday (tomorrow), and there would be more arrests of PTI leaders and workers in the days to come. Later at night, the NA Secretariat issued a statement saying that a joint sitting had been summoned to meet on March 22.

Provinces’ concern

Speaking during a TV appearance on Monday night, Planning and Development Minister Ahsan Iqbal said the provincial governments of Sindh and Balochistan were quite concerned over the Supreme Court decision regarding holding of elections in Punjab and KP within 90 days of their dissolution and demanded elections in all provinces and the Centre be held at the same time.

“In view of the concerns of Sindh and Balochistan, the meeting reached a consensus that elections to the national and provincial assemblies should be held at the same time, and not separately,” he added.

“If the elections in Punjab are held now, the new provincial government will have influence on the polls to the National Assembly,” he said.

The minister said the elections in Punjab were scheduled to be held under the last census, while the new census will be completed over the next four months and the general elections in the country will be held as per the fresh census. He said the final decision regarding holding of elections will be taken by the Election Commission of Pakistan (ECP).

The Supreme Court had in a recent verdict directed the caretaker government of Punjab to hold elections in the province on April 30.

Mr Iqbal said the apex court had taken the decision in “haste” as the present circumstances did not allow holding of polls so early. “It was the responsibility of the Supreme Court to take its decision keeping in view the ground realities,” he added.

‘Middle way’ out of deadlock

Separately, PPP leader Qamar Zaman Kaira said it was in the best interests of the country that elections in all provinces and the Centre should be held simultaneously. “It was a common opinion of all in the meeting. If elections in Punjab and KP are held now, it will create more problems and conflict,” he added.

Source: Dawn

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Punjab govt wants to ‘sabotage’ Minar-i-Pakistan rally: Imran

Mansoor Malik

March 21, 2023

LAHORE: Two days ahead of the much-touted rally at Minar-i-Pakistan slated to be held on Wednesday, Pakistan Tehreek-i-Insaf (PTI) Chairman Imran Khan said the caretaker government wanted to “sabotage” the public gathering — which would “also serve as a referendum against the incumbent government” — by employing delaying tactics under the cover of permission.

Asserting that democracy is being demolished, Mr Khan said that general elections in Punjab have been scheduled for April 30 but no election environment is being allowed to prevail. “Election rallies are being atta­cked by the caretaker government and permissions for public meetings are being delayed,” Mr Khan said.

When contacted, Punjab chief secretary Zahid Akhtar Zaman and Deputy Commissioner Lahore Rafia Haider stayed mum over the question regarding the permission for the public gathering.

The former premier said the delay in permission for the public meeting was aimed at eclipsing the PTI gathering as the party would not have enough time for canvassing or setting up a stage at the venue. In light of these circumstances, the public meeting might face another delay, sources said.

PTI chief urges CJP to order probe into ‘presence of assassins at Judicial Complex’

While there were reports that the gathering may get postponed till Sunday, party insiders said Ramazan would have begun by Sunday and it would not be possible for the former ruling party to organise the meeting during the day time.

‘Polls only solution’

In his televised address from the Zaman Park residence, Mr Khan said, “Holding free and fair elections is the only way to steer the country out of prevailing crises and bring political stability in the country, followed by economic stability and strengthening of the society,” he asserted.

The PTI chief also chided caretaker Chief Minister Mohsin Naqvi for not doing anything in a bid to ensure free and fair elections. Mr Khan also asserted that the masses would come out in massive numbers at the Minar-i-Pakistan public meeting to show their distrust against the incumbent rulers. “My sixth public meeting at Minar-i-Pakistan venue in the past 12 years will serve as a referendum against the incumbent rulers,” he asserted.

‘PTI vs army’

The former prime minister also said the PDM government was trying to pit the Pakistan Army against the PTI. “The rulers are trying to mislead the army against PTI,” he claimed. “The army and this country belong to us as we will live here, but the incumbent corrupt rulers will run away as their wealth in dollars is stashed abroad,” he claimed.

Reiterating yet again that the incumbent rulers wanted to kill him and a “trap” was laid at the Islamabad Judicial Complex on the occasion of his hearing, the PTI chairman urged the chief justice to investigate that who were “plainclothesmen VIPs” that were allowed entry into the complex.

The PTI chief also ran video footage showing some “plainclothesm­en” entering the complex and added that one of his colleagues approached and beckoned him to immediately move away. He said police also pelted stones and bricks at his party workers and supporters to create a scene on the occasion and grab him under the cover of the altercation.

According to Mr Khan, “they can succeed any time (in killing me) because arresting and taking me to jail seems a Plan-B” of the government. He urged the CJP to allow him the facility of joining courts’ proceedings through a video-conference facility. He also lamented that the assailant, who fired to assassinate him, was being given a video-conference facility in jail.

The former premier urged the CJP to take note of the “human rights violations being committed by the PDM government and the caretaker government” in Punjab. He alleged the police were raiding his party’s senior leadership houses, harassing residents, picking up children, and ransacking belongings in the same as they ransacked his house.

Mr Khan said the incumbent rulers were using every kind of tactic to eliminate him as they were afraid of losing elections in his presence. Chiding the former army chief Qamar Javed Bajwa for ruining the peace and well-being of the country, the PTI chief said, “Even an enemy would not have been able to ruin Pakistan as he did.”

Source: Dawn

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Pakistan highlights Ramadan’s call for compassion, tolerance in message at UN

March 20, 2023

NEW YORK: Pakistan’s Ambassador to the United Nations, Munir Akram, delivered a message on the eve of Ramadan reminding the Muslim community at the UN about the values of compassion, patience, and tolerance that the holy month teaches.

He also highlighted the significance of reflection, self-purification, and learning during this time.

Ambassador Akram encouraged people to uplift those in need and perform charitable acts as a way of thanking Allah for His countless blessings.

He expressed his condolences to those who lost their loved ones and homes during the climate calamities, particularly the floods in Pakistan, Turkey, and other parts of the world, as well as the earthquake in southern Turkey and northern Syria.

Furthermore, he paid homage to Kashmiri and Palestinian brothers and sisters who have been living under the occupation, and expressed his gratitude to the peacekeepers in UN missions working diligently in challenging conditions.

Source: Pakistan Today

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Imran’s nephew re-arrested minutes after getting bail

Munawer Azeem | Malik Asad

March 21, 2023

ISLAMABAD: Hassaan Khan Niazi, nephew of PTI Chairman Imran Khan, was re-arrested in a separate case on Monday when he was leaving the Federal Judicial Complex (FJC) after securing pre-arrest bail in three cases.

Mr Niazi had obtained bail from the Anti-Terrorism Court (ATC) in cases registered against him and other PTI supporters in connection with violence that took place on Feb 28 and March 18 when Mr Khan appeared in the FJC.

The judge confirmed Mr Niazi’s bail in two cases registered on Feb 28 and gran­ted him pre-arrest interim bail in the FIR registered with the Counter Ter­rorism Department (CTD) on March 18 when Mr Khan was supposed to be indicted by a trial court in the Toshakhana case.

Due to rioting outside the main entrance to the FJC, trial court judge Zafar Iqbal was left with no option but to defer the indictment and marked Mr Khan’s attendance while the former prime minister sat in his vehicle parked outside the complex.

Ironically, the court’s order sheet went missing during the signing process and the judge had to retrieve a copy of the same from computer. He recorded statements of Mr Khan’s counsel Khawaja Haris Ahmed, Barrister Gohar Ali Khan and SP Sami Malik.

Hassaan Niazi among over 250 PTI supporters booked, detained for violence near judicial complex; Bol News journalist picked up

The fourth FIR against Mr Niazi was submitted before IHC Chief Justice Aamer Farooq during the hearing of a habeas corpus petition filed by Advocate Faisal Hussain and Advocate Mohammad Ali Bukhari.

During arguments, Advocate Hussain informed the court that Mr Niazi was picked up without due process of law.

Justice Farooq summoned the SHO of Ramna Police Station and a representative of IG Islamabad. The SHO informed the court that Mr Niazi was arrested after registration of an FIR.

Advocate Hussain expressed the apprehension that Mr Niazi would be subjected to custodial torture.

Justice Farooq ordered the police to act in accordance with law. He also directed for conducting medical examination of Niazi and asked them to produce him before the judicial magistrate on Tuesday (today).

Mr Niazi was arrested after a case was registered against him under Section 324 and five other sections of PPC at Ramna Police Station.

More than 250 picked up

Meanwhile, the capital police arrested over 250 local leaders, activists and supporters of PTI in connection with two cases registered against them for violence in and around the judicial complex on March 18, police said on Monday.

They said 60 people were detained on Sunday and as the crackdown continued the number of those arrested increased to 250 by Monday evening.

Safe City footage was used to spot those who caused a breakdown of law and order, police said, adding that help of Nadra was also being sought to identify the “miscreants”.

Police said 53 personnel were injured during the violence.

Journalist taken into custody

The capital police also picked up the bureau chief of Bol News channel, Siddique Jan from his office and took him away in a private vehicle to an undisclosed location.

A police officer told Dawn that a case is likely to be registered against Mr Jan upon the instructions of a senior officer.

Source: Dawn

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South Asia


Rohingya refugees ask for citizenship, rights guarantee before Myanmar return


March 20, 2023

DHAKA: Rohingya refugees said on Monday their citizenship and basic rights must be guaranteed before returning to Myanmar, as the first step of a potential repatriation got underway.

Around 1.2 million Rohingya people are living in squalid camps in the coastal district of Cox’s Bazar in Bangladesh, most of whom fled violence and persecution in neighboring Myanmar during a military crackdown in 2017.

A team from Myanmar arrived last week to verify Rohingya refugees in Bangladeshi camps for their potential return as part of a pilot repatriation project, which has been delayed for years.

Authorities were expecting 400 people to be cleared to return to their homeland, part of more than 1,100 listed as a potential first batch of returnees. The documents of the rest were already cleared by Myanmar authorities remotely.

“I am willing to return to Myanmar if we are guaranteed citizenship and other associated rights, like freedom of movement,” Abdur Rahman, an 18-year-old Rohingya refugee in Cox’s Bazar, told Arab News.

Myanmar does not recognize the Rohingya as an indigenous ethnic group. Most were rendered stateless under the country’s 1982 Citizenship Law and had been excluded from the 2014 census. Many in the Buddhist-majority country refer to members of the community as Bengalis, suggesting they belong in Bangladesh.

“Our houses were burnt down,” Rahman said. “Some of my relatives are still living in Rakhine, I talk with them almost every day. As they told me, the situation in Rakhine is far better now.”

Rakhine State, one of Myanmar’s poorest states, was at the center of the 2017 violence.

Though Rahman’s village is still deserted, his relatives told him that some public facilities, including schools and hospitals, in other areas have been rebuilt.

However, repatriation was still uncertain even with the ongoing verification process, a Bangladesh foreign ministry official, who wished to remain anonymous, told Arab News.

“At the moment, it’s difficult to specify any time frame in this regard. We can say that both parties are working to solve the problems,” the official said, adding that the Myanmar delegation was expected to conclude its mission on Tuesday.

For a long time, Myanmar authorities “were going very slow” in verifying Rohingya refugees, leading to an extended delay of the repatriation process, the official said, adding that Myanmar officials now appeared “a little bit more willing than before” to start the project.

However, the UN refugee agency (UNHCR) said conditions in Rakhine State were still “not conducive to the sustainable return of Rohingya refugees.”

In a statement, the UNHCR said it was “not involved in the discussions” of a potential return of the Rohingya people in Bangladesh to Myanmar, though it was aware of the bilateral repatriation project between the two countries, which was reportedly mediated by China.

“We reiterate that every refugee has a right to return to their home country based on an informed choice, but that no refugee should be forced to do so,” the UNHCR added.

Mohammed Nur, a 22-year-old Rohingya refugee living in Kutupalong camp, told Arab News that he wanted to go back to Myanmar.

“I am very much willing to return to my homeland,” he said. “But it cannot happen without the rights of citizenship in Myanmar.

Source: Arab News

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ISIS hideouts in Balkh province targeted in substantial strike: Taliban

19 March, 2023

Kabul [Afghanistan], March 19 (ANI): Taliban security forces targeted ISIS hideouts in Mazar-e-Sharif and called it a substantial strike against insurgents, said Taliban spokesperson Zabiullah Mujahid on Saturday, reported Khaama Press.

On Saturday, Mujahid wrote on Twitter that special operations by Taliban security forces against ISIS militants had begun in Mazar-e-Sharif, the provincial capital of Balkh.

According to Mujahid, the operation went on until late Friday night, and as a consequence, several ISIS militants were killed and one member of the Taliban security force was hurt.

Local sources, cited by Khaama Press, also reported a clash between Taliban security troops and rebels in Mazar-e-Sharif’s Dashte Shor area.

Five Daesh militants killed in Friday night operations in Mazar-i-Sharif were Tajikistan and Uzbekistan nationals, according to an official statement, reported Pajhwok Afghan News.

Three Daesh ‘Khawarej’ hideouts were destroyed on Friday night during intelligence-based operations in Mazar-i-Sharif’s 5th, 8th, and 10th Police Districts, Balkh Police Spokesperson Mohammad Asif Wazir told Pajhwok Afghan News.

Five “Khawarej,” who were nationals of Tajikistan and Uzbekistan, he claimed, were killed in the operations.

Officials in Balkh recently claimed the assassination of eight rebels and kidnappers, however, the relatives of the deceased stated that the victims were innocent and worked for a construction company.

ISIS fighters have stepped up their attacks across Afghanistan with the advent of spring, especially in the northern provinces. Numerous journalists were killed and hurt in the assault on the Tabyan Cultural Center in Mazar-e-Sharif, which was carried out by militants from the Islamic State Khorasan Province (ISIS-K).

Only eastern Nangarhar and Khost provinces had ISIS presence before the Taliban seized control of Kabul. Over the past 18 months, the militant group has quickly expanded its operations to other regions of Afghanistan.

According to the United Nations Assistance Mission in Afghanistan (UNAMA), ISIS terrorists have been responsible for a number of deadly attacks in Kabul over the past few months, including those against the Russian Embassy, the Pakistani Embassy, and a hotel that accommodated Chinese nationals, read a report in Khaama Press.

“Given the current security situation in Afghanistan, the foreign ministry once again reminds our fellow citizens and institutions in Afghanistan to leave and evacuate the country as soon as possible, report their identity information to the Embassy, and at the same time take extra safety precautions and enhance emergency preparedness,” Chinese Foreign Ministry Spokesperson Wang Wenbin said during a regular press conference on December 13, 2022.

After the attack, China advised its citizens in Afghanistan to leave the country as soon as possible

In the meantime, the rebel organisation has carried out vicious attacks on educational facilities and even singled out senior Taliban leaders in Kabul.

Source: The Print

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Bangladesh PM Sheikh Hasina offers India to use Chattogram, Sylhet ports

Mar 20, 2023

DHAKA: Bangladesh Prime Minister Sheikh Hasina has offered India to utilise the country's ports in Chattogram and Sylhet, asserting that it would boost connectivity and enhance people-to-people contacts in the region.

The Chhattogram port is an important seaport in Bangladesh, which is strategically located due to its proximity to India's North-Eastern states.

"India can use our Chattogram and Sylhet ports if they want," Dhaka Tribune newspaper quoted Prime Minister Hasina as saying when Ram Madhav of India Foundation called on her at her official residence Ganabhaban on Sunday.

Prime Minister Hasina said this move would increase regional connectivity and enhance people-to-people contacts.

During her interactions with Madhav, Hasina also conveyed her greetings to Prime Minister Narendra Modi, the report said.

Madhav appreciated the socioeconomic advancement in Bangladesh under Hasina's leadership.

Source: Times Of India

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Customs Duty on Essential Food Items Cut: Afghanistan

By Fidel Rahmati

March 21, 2023

The Ministry of Finance reported that based on the leadership decision, import duties on essential foods have decreased by 50 and 70 per cent over the past solar year.

Due to this decision, the ministry said customs duties had been reduced to 6.7 million Afghanis during the 1401 solar year.

Customs taxes on food products such as flour, wheat, cooking oil, rice, and sugar were reduced to help keep prices down on the local market.

Pakistan’s export to Afghanistan rose by 32 per cent from $500 million to $ 658 million in the first eight months of the fiscal year 2022-2023.

Afghanistan imports most of its food commodities from neighbouring countries, including Pakistan, Iran, and Central Asian countries.

Since Afghanistan’s takeover by the Taliban-led government, Pakistan’s export to Afghanistan has increased to 32%, according to media reports. Simultaneously, Afghanistan’s export to Pakistan has also increased than before.

Source: Khaama Press

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Former Military Personnel in Dire Situation: Afghanistan Human Rights Commission

By Nizamuddin Rezahi

March 20, 2023

Afghanistan Independent Human Rights Commission (AIHR) in an announcement has called for immediate attention to be paid to the situation of former Afghan military personnel, adding some governments in the region deploy these soldiers in regional wars.

The Human Rights Commission in a fresh announcement on Sunday said unlawful detainment, tortures, and extra-judicial killings of the former government’s army personnel have increased in Afghanistan.

As per the announcement, some of these military officials who have moved to the neighboring countries earlier including Iran and Pakistan, with their visas expired, are now forced to live illegally in those countries.

Based on existing evidence, AIHR emphasizes that “some countries in the region use former Afghan soldiers as a combat force in regional wars”

AIHR points out at dire situation of the former military officials and their family members, most of whom are poor and helpless, have fallen into the trap of criminal groups and suffer terrible stories – and an uncertain future awaits them.

As per the findings of the Afghanistan Independent Human Rights Commission, the Islamic Emirate officials are accused of mistreating former Afghan military personnel, in some cases, the extreme tortures have ended in deaths. 

The AIHRC calls on all those governments who fought in Afghanistan to fight terrorism and recently irresponsibly left their allies alone to be accountable for their decisions and the painful fate of their Afghan allies.

Since the return of the Taliban to power, the human rights situation in the country has been dire. Under a heavy atmosphere of surveillance and censorship, systematic violations of human rights across the country have been reported by authoritative human rights bodies and civil society actors.

Source: Khaama Press

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Arab World


UAE top official calls for end to war, chaos in Syria after Assad visit

20 March 2023

Anwar Gargash, the diplomatic adviser to the UAE’s president, has called for an end to the war and destruction in Syria, amid rapprochement between Arab states and Damascus.

In a tweet, Gargash reiterated his country's support for "the return of Syria to its environment", noting that this was confirmed by the UAE President Sheikh Mohammed bin Zayed al-Nahyan during his Sunday meeting with Syrian President Bashar al-Assad.

"A decade and a half of war, violence and destruction is enough and it's time to enhance cooperation and solidarity among our Arab countries to ensure the stability and prosperity of the region," Gargash said.

Syria's membership in the Arab League was suspended following the eruption of a foreign-backed militancy in the country in 2011.

"The UAE's approach and efforts towards brotherly Syria are part of a deeper vision and a broader approach aimed at strengthening Arab and regional stability and overcoming difficult years of confrontation," Gargash added.

The UAE cut its relations with Syria in 2012, a year after the Damascus found itself in the grips of foreign-backed violence, but it reopened its embassy in Damascus in 2018.

In the latest sign of developing thaw in ties between the two countries, Assad, accompanied by his wife Asma al-Assad, arrived in Abu Dhabi on Sunday for an official visit. It was her first foreign trip since 2011.

Saudi Arabia to reopen consulate in Damascus soon

Amid rapprochement between Arab states and Syria, reports said Saudi Arabia will reopen its consulate in the Syrian capital, Damascus, soon.

Russia's Sputnik news agency cited sources as saying that the diplomatic breakthrough is brokered by Russia and the UAE .

According to the report, the consulate is expected to reopen after Eid al-Fitr, which will be celebrated late in April.

The sources said the reopening will be preceded by a visit by the Saudi foreign ministry to Damascus to meet President al-Assad and Syrian officials.

Source: Press TV

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Saudi Arabia to Reopen Consulate in Damascus Soon


Sputnik news agency cited sources as saying that the diplomatic breakthrough is brokered by Russia and the UAE.

According to the report, the consulate is expected to reopen after Eid Al-Fitr, which will be celebrated late in April.

The sources stated that the reopening will be preceded by a visit by Saudi diplomats to Damascus to meet President Bashar Al-Assad and Syrian officials.

Saudi Arabia closed its embassy in Damascus and withdrew all diplomats in March 2012.

It comes days after Assad visited the United Arab Emirates (UAE) amid a recent thaw in relations between Syria and the rest of the Arab world.

Heading a Syrian delegation, Assad, accompanied by his wife Asma Al-Assad, was received by UAE President Sheikh Mohammed bin Zayed Al Nahyan upon his arrival at the presidential airport in Abu Dhabi on Sunday. His plane was greeted by Emirati jets.

In a post on his Twitter account, Sheikh Mohammed said he had held “constructive talks” with his Syrian counterpart aimed at developing relations between the two countries. 

"Our discussions also explored ways of enhancing cooperation to accelerate stability and progress in Syria and the region," he added.

In March last year, Assad traveled to the UAE, in his first such visit to an Arab state since the beginning of foreign-backed violence in the country.

The trip was the latest sign of warming ties between the two countries after the UAE reopened its embassy in Damascus in 2018 and sent its foreign minister to visit Syria in late 2021.

The UAE cut its relations with Syria in 2012, a year after the latter found itself in the grips of rampant foreign-backed violence.

Assad’s latest trip to the UAE comes a few days after he visited Moscow at the head of a ranking delegation for high-level talks with Russian President Vladimir Putin.

It also took place a month after a delegation from the Arab Inter-Parliamentary Union, visited Damascus to discuss restoration of Syria’s membership in the Arab League after more than a decade of suspension from the 22-member bloc.

The Arab League suspended Syria’s membership in November 2011, citing an alleged crackdown by Damascus on opposition protests. Syria denounced the move as “illegal and a violation of the organization’s charter".

Source: Fars News Agency

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Pro-Turkey fighters kill 4 Syria Kurds celebrating Nowruz: Monitor

21 March ,2023

Turkish-backed fighters shot at a family of Kurds celebrating the festival of Nowruz in northern Syria on Monday, killing at least four people, a war monitor said.

Several others were wounded in the incident that began when the fighters from the Ahrar al-Sharqiya armed group hurled insults at the young men, the Britain-based Syrian Observatory for Human Rights said.

The Kurdish men had lit a fire near their home to celebrate Nowruz, a pre-Islamic festival marking the advent of spring and the Kurdish new year.

The fighters then “opened fire on the citizens in cold blood,” killing four people and wounding three others, “all from the same family”, said the Observatory which relies on a wide network of sources in Syria.

The shooting happened at a village near the town of Jindayris, Aleppo province, in an area outside of the Damascus government's control that was badly hit by last month's devastating earthquake.

Syria's rebel-held north and northwest, controlled by extremists and Turkish-backed fighters, are home to more than four million people, at least half of whom have been displaced from other parts of the country.

Jindayris was seized by Turkey and its Syrian rebel proxies in a 2018 offensive that drove Kurdish forces from the Afrin region.

Many of its Kurdish inhabitants were displaced by the Turkish offensive.

The US Treasury sanctioned Ahrar al-Sharqiya in July 2021.

Fighters from the group had pulled a 35-year-old Syrian Kurdish politician, Hevrin Khalaf, out of her car and shot her dead in a possible war crime, according to the United Nations rights office.

The Treasury Department said the group killed hundreds more since 2018 in a prison it runs near Aleppo and had integrated former members of the ISIS extremist group.

The brutal repression of 2011 protests in Syria during the Middle East's Arab Spring uprisings triggered a complex civil war in Syria that drew in foreign powers and extremists.

Source: Al Arabiya

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Qassem Soleimani supported the US invasion of Iraq: Masoud Barzani

20 March ,2023

The late Iranian Islamic Revolutionary Guard Corps (IRGC) commander Qassem Soleimani supported the United States invasion of Iraq, according to Iraqi Kurdish leader Masoud Barzani.

In an interview with Asharq al-Awsat published on Sunday, Barzani revealed that he had met with Soleimani prior to the invasion of Iraq in 2003.

Barzani, who is the leader of the Kurdistan Democratic Party (KDP) and served as the President of Iraqi Kurdistan from 2005 to 2017, stated that Soleimani was responsible for the Iraq file in the Iranian government at the time of their meeting.

When asked if Soleimani supported the invasion of Iraq and the overthrow of Saddam Hussein, Barzani responded “yes.”

Barzani also explained that Iran could not publicly announce their support for the US-led invasion, but saw the toppling of Saddam as a “great victory.”

The two countries were previously at war from 1980 to 1988 under Saddam’s rule.

Source: Al Arabiya

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Saudi project clears 1,027 Houthi mines in Yemen

March 20, 2023

RIYADH: An ongoing Saudi program to clear landmines in Yemen saw 1,027 devices laid by the Iran-backed Houthis dismantled in the second week of March.

Overseen by the King Salman Humanitarian Aid and Relief Center, special teams destroyed six anti-personnel, 203 anti-tank mines, 817 unexploded ordinances and one explosive device.

The Masam project is one of several initiatives undertaken by Saudi Arabia on the orders of King Salman to help the Yemeni people.

It clear routes for much-needed humanitarian aid aimed at supporting the country’s citizens.

The demining operations took place in Marib, Aden, Jouf, Shabwa, Taiz, Hodeidah, Lahij, Sanaa, Al-Bayda, Al-Dhale, and Saada.

A total of 391,613 mines have been cleared since the start of the project.

More than 1.2 million mines have been planted by the Houthis, claiming the lives of hundreds of civilians.

The Saudi project trains local demining engineers and provides them with modern equipment. It also offers support to Yemenis injured by the devices.

Source: Arab News

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Lebanon fears repercussions of Syrian refugees staying in the country


March 21, 2023

Beirut: Brig. Gen. Elias Baissari, Lebanon’s acting director-general of General Security, on Monday spoke about what he called “a disturbing issue for the state and the Lebanese.”

On the matter of Syrian refugees in Lebanon, Baissari stressed that the GS would continue its efforts to organize voluntary and safe trips back to Syria, which it has been doing since 2017. Coordination is also underway with UN High Commissioner for Refugees to resettle the refugees in a third country.

“I hope we can reach quick solutions given the negative repercussions of this issue on Lebanon,” Baissari said.

A few days ago, Hermel Bashir Khoder, the governor of Baalbek, addressed the representative of the Syrian refugees in Lebanon during a meeting held at Dar Al-Fatwa in Baalbek, saying: “You are displaced people, not refugees. This is your legal definition in the Lebanese state, and you have to respect the country that hosts you and respect its laws.”

Khoder added: “This is not a discriminatory stance, but the Lebanese have had enough.”

The coordinator of camps for displaced Syrians in the border town of Arsal, which hosts the largest number of camps in Lebanon, demanded increased contributions for the displaced and held Khoder responsible for their difficult conditions.

Khoder’s angered response to these demands was widely shared on social media and received praise from many Lebanese.

“I, as a governor, occupy one of the highest administrative jobs in the Lebanese state, and my salary is less than what one displaced Syrian in Lebanon gets,” he said. “The benefits that the displaced get are much greater than what the Lebanese employees get.”

The audience applauded Khoder, who objected to accusations that the Lebanese were discriminatory.

“We are one people in two countries, not one people in one country. The time limit for the displaced has extended to 12 years, and displacement is not forever. We are hurting. You are our brothers, and we will never abandon you, but we have nothing more to offer you. Lebanese wages are way too low and we are carrying all the burden. We are not able to carry more responsibilities on our shoulders.”

Khoder told Arab News: “Not one official concerned with the affairs of Syrian refugees has ever contacted me.

“I simply expressed the pain experienced by every Lebanese, particularly those working in the public sector.”

He also expressed concerns about the issue of infrastructure within refugee camps.

“A foreign NGO asked me to allow it to establish extensions for a sewage network in one of the Bekaa camps. But we cannot accept the establishment of infrastructure in the camps. It may later lead to the construction of rooms instead of tents, and this is out of the question,” he noted.

According to the latest statistics announced in December by retired Maj. Gen. Abbas Ibrahim, the former director-general of the GS, there are currently 2,80,000 Syrian refugees in Lebanon, while only 540,000 Syrians have voluntarily returned to their country since 2017.

Over 1 million Syrian refugees in Lebanon “do not wish to return to their country,” Ibrahim said.

A recent field survey conducted by the Deir Al-Ahmar Municipalities in cooperation with a statistical team revealed a significant increase in the percentage of births within the Syrian refugee camps in the region.

The survey included a statistical sample of 655 tents, with the total number of refugees occupying them amounting to 3,728, including 1,782 refugees under the age of 15, which constitutes 48 percent. This is, according to the survey, “much more than Lebanese families.”

The Lebanese state fears that attractive donations from international organizations to refugees have encouraged them to have children, remain in Lebanon and not return for fear of being stripped of international assistance.

The Lebanese government previously estimated that the refugees consume daily 500,000 bundles of bread and 5 million gallons of water. The funds the state has spent on refugees have amounted to $30 billion over the course of 11 years.

The statistical bulletin on the official website of the Ministry of Health indicates that in the year 2021, 100,000 births were recorded in Lebanon, 40 percent of which were Syrians. The statistics do not account for births that take place outside hospitals.

A UNHCR report stated: “In 2021, the vast majority of refugees continued to resort to negative coping strategies to survive, such as begging, borrowing money, not sending their children to school, reducing health expenses, or not paying rent.”

These “privileges” that the Lebanese believe that Syrian refugees enjoy in Lebanon have prompted many Lebanese, with the approaching month of Ramadan, to object to sharing aid with Syrian refugees.

Source: Arab News

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Permit not required for prayer at Two Holy Mosques during last 10 days of Ramadan

March 20, 2023

RIYADH — The Ministry of Hajj and Umrah clarified on Monday that it is not required to obtain a permit to offer prayers at the Grand Mosque in Makkah and the Prophet’s Mosque in Madinah during the last ten days of the holy month of Ramadan.

The Department for Beneficiary Care Service under the ministry stated this through its official Twitter account in response to inquiries from worshipers. “It is not necessary to obtain a permit to perform prayers in the Two Holy Mosques, with a condition that the worshipers shall not have coronavirus infection or contact with a person infected with the virus,” it said in the statement.

Source: Saudi Gazette

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Saudi King Invites Iranian President to Pay Official Visit to Riyadh


The Iranian President's Deputy Chief of Staff for Political Affairs, Mohammad Jamshidi, made the announcement in a post on his Twitter account on Sunday, saying the Saudi king has extended the invitation in a letter.

The two regional heavyweights have recently announced a Chinese-brokered deal to restore ties seven years after they were severed. They had held five rounds of negotiations in the Iraqi capital of Baghdad since April 2021.

"In a letter to President Rayeesi, the King of Saudi Arabia welcomed the deal between the two brotherly countries, (and) invited him to Riyadh," he wrote, adding that the Saudi King has called for establishing economic and regional cooperation between the two countries.

The senior Iranian official stated that Rayeesi has welcomed the invitation.

After several days of intensive negotiations hosted by China, Iran and Saudi Arabia finally clinched a deal on March 10 to restore diplomatic relations and re-open embassies and missions within two months.

According to a joint statement, Tehran and Riyadh have stressed the need to respect the national sovereignty and refrain from interfering in the internal affairs of one another.

The two countries have agreed to implement a security cooperation agreement signed in April 2001 and another accord reached in May 1998 to boost economic, commercial, investment, technical, scientific, cultural, sports, and youth affairs cooperation.

Saudi Arabia severed diplomatic relations with Iran in January 2016 after Iranian protesters, enraged by the execution of prominent Shia cleric Sheikh Nimr Baqir Al-Nimr by theRiyadh government, stormed its embassy in Tehran.

Iranian Foreign Minister Hossein Amir Abdollahian told reporters on Sunday that the two countries had agreed to hold a meeting between their top diplomats.

Source: Fars News Agency

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Palestinian PM: Israeli minister’s ‘inflammatory’ remarks sign of ‘racist Zionist ideology’

20 March 2023

Palestinian Prime Minister Mohammad Shtayyeh has strongly condemned the latest remarks by a far-right Israeli minister who said Palestinians do not exist as a nation, describing them as evidence to the regime’s ‘racist ideology’.

Speaking before a cabinet meeting on Monday, Shtayyeh said Bezalel Smotrich’s “inflammatory statements are consistent with the first Zionist sayings of a land without a people for a people without a land.”

He said the comments were “conclusive evidence of the extremist, racist Zionist ideology... of the current Israeli government.”

Smotrich made racist remarks while speaking at an event in the French capital, Paris, on Sunday. “There are no Palestinians, because there are no Palestinian people.”

“There are Arabs around who don't like it, so what do they do? They invent a fictitious people and claim fictitious rights to the land of Israel, only to fight the Zionist movement.”

“It is the historical truth, it is the biblical truth... the Arabs in Israel must hear it, as well as certain Jews who are confused in Israel, this truth must be heard here at the Elysee Palace (in Paris), and at the White House in Washington, and everyone must hear this truth,” Smotrich said.

Smotrich was sworn in last year as a member of the regime’s new far-right cabinet led by Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu.

He and his Zionist group have a history of making incendiary remarks about the Palestinians.

In February, Smotrich called for the Palestinian town of Huwara in the occupied West Bank to be “wiped out.”

Hundreds of armed Israeli settlers then attacked Huwara and the nearby villages and torched dozens of houses and cars. They were angered by the killing of two Israeli brothers by a Palestinian gunman in Huwara.

Source: Press TV

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Israel eases Palestinian entry restrictions to Aqsa ahead of Ramadan

Rina Bassist

March 21, 2023

Israel’s Coordinator of Government Activities in the Territories (COGAT) announced on Monday an easement of restrictions for Palestinians wishing to enter Jerusalem and pray at Temple Mount/Haram al-Sharif during the month of Ramadan.

The step is routine from Israel, but the current decision comes also on the backdrop of two US-initiated meetings, first in Aqaba, Jordan, and then in Sharm al-Sheikh, Egypt, for calming increasingly growing tensions in the West Bank and in Jerusalem during the holiday month.

According to the new measures, Palestinian women, Palestinian men over the age of 55 and children up to the age of 12 living in the West Bank will be allowed to enter Israel and Haram al-Sharif compound in Jerusalem without a permit for the Ramadan Friday prayers. Palestinian men between the age of 45-55 will be able to enter the mosque compound subject to a permit, which in turn would be subject to a security approval. In comparison, last year, Palestinian men aged 50-55 and older were allowed to enter the compound without a special permit.

Another easement announced was allowing a certain number (the exact number was not communicated) of women aged 50 and over and men over 55 living in the Gaza Strip to visit Jerusalem between Sunday and Thursday.

Additionally, Palestinians living in the West Bank will be allowed to visit family members living in Israel during Ramadan. Those living abroad would be allowed to visit family in the West Bank. Both cases, however, would be subject to Israeli security clearance. Palestinians living in the West Bank will be allowed to book tickets for certain flights abroad through the southern Ramon Airport, and crossing points between Israel and the West Bank will operate longer hours than usual.

Visiting the Temple Mount/Haram al-Sharif compound is highly regulated. Jews are allowed to ascend on certain hours in the mornings and in the afternoon. They are not allowed to pray there. For the past decade or so, Israeli Police limited visiting times for Jews during the month of Ramadan, usually authorizing that only in the morning hours. No visits were authorized for Jews in the last 10 days of Ramadan, which are considered the most holy days of the month.

Source: Al Monitor

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Israeli forces raid Shuafat refugee camp amid de-escalation calls ahead of Ramadan

Mar 21, 2023

Palestinian media reported a Tuesday dawn raid by Israeli forces on the city of Nablus and the Shuafat refugee camp, north of Jerusalem.

The operations took place amid rising tensions following comments from an Israeli minister who said there was “no such thing” as a Palestinian people.

Also on Tuesday, Israeli forces raided the house of Palestinian prisoner Osama Al Taweel in the Rafidia neighbourhood of Nablus, according to the Palestinian Al Quds news outlet.

Finance Minister Bezalel Smotrich angered Jordan for speaking at a podium covered in what appeared to be a variation of the Israeli flag that showed an Israeli state with expanded boundaries that included the West Bank, East Jerusalem, Gaza and Jordan.

“Is there a Palestinian history or culture? There is none,” he can be heard saying in video of the speech he gave on Sunday at a conference in France shared widely on social media.

“There is no such thing as a Palestinian people,” he said.

Mr Smotrich, who heads a religious-nationalist party in Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu's far-right coalition, made the speech on the day that Israeli and Palestinian officials met in the Egyptian resort of Sharm El Sheikh for de-escalation talks ahead of the Muslim holy month of Ramadan and the Jewish Passover holiday.

The high-level security talks at the Red Sea resort city, which are brokered by allies Egypt and Jordan and also the US, aim to end a year of violence that has claimed the lives of more than 200 Palestinians and more than 40 people in Israel.

Netanyahu judicial challenges

In Israel, Mr Netanyahu on Monday announced a softening of his judicial overhaul plan but an unallayed opposition said it would still challenge key legislation in the Supreme Court.

The package of reforms sought by Mr Netanyahu's coalition has led to weeks of street demonstrations and stirred worries among western allies who fear a threat to the independence of Israel's justice system.

After discussing the situation with US President Joe Biden, Mr Netanyahu said he would postpone most of the bills apart from legislation shaking up Israel's system for selecting judges, which he wants ratified before a parliament recess on April 2.

His justice minister, however, said the delay was more technical because of the constrained timeline, adding that he remained committed to carrying out all the proposed changes and warned against high court intervention.

Source: The National News

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Iran minister interested in developing ‘peaceful’ nuclear energy with Russia: RIA

21 March ,2023

Iran is ready to expand its cooperation with Russia in the energy sector, including in the development of “peaceful” nuclear energy, Iranian Economy Minister Ehsan Khandouzi said in an interview with Russia’s RIA state news agency.

“The prospect of cooperation in the field of ‘new energy’ and renewable energy sources, as well as in the field of other types of energy, including peaceful nuclear energy, certainly causes great interest and motivation for expanding economic relations with Russia,” Khandouzi said in remarks published on Tuesday.

Source: Al Arabiya

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EU extends Iran sanctions to judges, clerical council

20 March ,2023

European ministers agreed on Monday to add eight Iranians and one of the Tehran government's most powerful bodies to EU sanctions lists, alleging human rights violations.

The individuals -- including clerics, judges and a broadcaster -- are accused of playing leading roles in Iran's brutal crackdown on anti-government protests.

The EU said it was in particular “sanctioning members of the judiciary responsible for handing down death sentences in unfair trials and for the torturing of convicts”.

The government institution, the Supreme Council of Cultural Revolution, was said to have “promoted several projects undermining the freedom of girls and women and discriminating against minorities”.

Brussels' latest listings bring to around 150 the number of individuals, companies and agencies targeted by EU asset freezes and travel bans over the crackdown.

Europe made the decision as UN expert Javaid Rehman told the United Nations Human Rights Councils that Iran's actions in the six months since protests erupted could amount to crimes against humanity.

Demonstrations erupted after the death in custody of 22-year-old Mahsa Amini, who had been accused by religious authorities of violating Iran's women's dress code.

The sanctions decision was made at a meeting of foreign and defense ministers in Brussels, as thousands of Iranian exiles protested outside in support of the uprising against the Tehran government.

The protesters, many of them supporters of the exiled opposition group the National Council of Resistance, demanded the Islamic Revolutionary Guard Corps (IRGC) be blacklisted as a terrorist group.

Some EU capitals are also pushing for this measure, which would target the paramilitary armed wing of Tehran's Islamic revolution, which is deeply embedded in the Iranian economy.

Source: Al Arabiya

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Top Israeli minister: ‘No such thing’ as Palestinian people

20 March ,2023

A firebrand Israeli minister claimed there’s “no such thing” as a Palestinian people as Israel's new coalition government, its most hard-line ever, plowed ahead on Monday with a part of its plan to overhaul the judiciary.

Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu’s coalition said it was pushing a key part of the overhaul — which would give the coalition control over who becomes a justice or a judge — before the parliament takes a monthlong holiday break next week.

The development came a day after an Israeli and Palestinian delegation at a meeting in Egypt, mediated by Egyptian, Jordanian and US officials, pledged to take steps to lower tensions roiling the region ahead of a sensitive holiday season.

It reflected the limited influence the Biden administration appears to have over Israel’s new far-right government and raised questions about attempts to lower tensions, both inside Israel and with the Palestinians, ahead of a sensitive holiday season.

As the negotiators were issuing a joint communique, Israeli Finance Minister Bezalel Smotrich delivered a speech in Paris saying the notion of a Palestinian people was artificial.

“There is no such thing as a Palestinian nation. There is no Palestinian history. There is no Palestinian language,” he said in France late Sunday. He spoke at a lectern draped with what appeared to be an image showing the map of Israel that included the occupied West Bank, Gaza and Jordan.

Jordan’s Foreign Ministry said that Smotrich’s appearance with the icon was a “reckless inflammatory act and a violation of international norms and the peace treaty" between the two countries.

Palestinian Prime Minister Mohammad Shtayyeh said Smotrich's remarks were “conclusive evidence of the extremist, racist Zionist ideology that governs the parties of the current Israeli government.”

A far-right settler leader who opposes Palestinian statehood, Smotrich has a history of offensive statements against the Palestinians. Last month, he called for the Palestinian town of Hawara in the West Bank to be “erased” after radical Jewish settlers rampaged through the town in response to a shooting attack that killed two Israelis. Smotrich later apologized after an international uproar.

His remarks on Palestinians were reminiscent of those made by late Israeli Prime Minister Golda Meir that caused an uproar in 1969. She later told The New York Times that she meant there had never been a Palestinian nation. But critics say the comments continue to tarnish her legacy.

During Sunday’s talks in Egypt, a Palestinian gunman carried out another shooting attack in Hawara, seriously wounding an Israeli man.

The new violence, along with Smotrich’s comments, illustrated the tough challenges that lie ahead in soothing tensions after a year of deadly violence in the West Bank and east Jerusalem. More than 200 Palestinians have been killed by Israeli fire in the West Bank and east Jerusalem, and more than 40 Israelis or foreigners have been killed in Palestinian attacks during that time.

Sunday’s summit was held ahead of the Muslim holy month of Ramadan, which begins this week. The Jewish festival of Passover is set to take place in April, coinciding with Ramadan.

The upcoming period is sensitive because large numbers of Jewish and Muslim faithful pour into Jerusalem’s Old City, the emotional heart of the conflict and a flashpoint for violence, increasing friction points.

Large numbers of Jews are also expected to visit a key Jerusalem holy site, known to Muslims as the Noble Sanctuary and to Jews as the Temple Mount — an act the Palestinians view as a provocation.

Clashes at the site in 2021 helped trigger an 11-day war between Israel and Hamas, which rules the Gaza Strip.

On Monday, Israeli police closed the offices of a Palestinian radio station in east Jerusalem, saying it worked for official Palestinian Authority media in violation of the 1994 interim agreements between Israel and the Palestinians.

The heightened tensions with the Palestinians coincide with mass demonstrations inside Israel against Netanyahu’s plans to overhaul the judicial system. Opponents of the measure have carried out disruptive protests, and the debate has embroiled the country’s military, where some reservists are refusing to show up for service. Netanyahu has rejected a compromise by Israel's figurehead president.

During his call with Netanyahu, Biden appealed for caution, the White House said, “as a friend of Israel in the hopes that there can be a compromise formula found.”

The president “underscored his belief that democratic values have always been, and must remain, a hallmark of the US-Israel relationship," the White House said, and added that "fundamental changes should be pursued with the broadest possible base of popular support.”

Netanyahu's government says the plan is meant to correct an imbalance that has given the courts too much power over the legislative process. Critics say the overhaul would upend the country's delicate system of checks and balances and push Israel toward authoritarianism. They also say Netanyahu could find an escape route from his corruption trial through the overhaul.

The protests, along with the rising violence with the Palestinians, have posed a major challenge for the new government. So far this year, 85 Palestinians have been killed, according to a tally by The Associated Press.

The number of Israelis killed during the same period rose to 15 on Monday after Or Eshkar, 33, died. He was shot in the head at point-blank range by a Palestinian in Tel Aviv on March 9.

Israel says most of the Palestinians killed have been militants. But stone-throwing youths protesting the incursions and people not involved in the confrontations have also been killed.

Source: Al Arabiya

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Yemeni government, Houthis to trade 887 inmates during Ramadan


March 20, 2023

AL-MUKALLA: Yemen’s internationally recognized government and the Iran-backed Houthis agreed on Monday to exchange over 800 inmates in a deal monitored by the UN and the International Red Cross.

Representatives of the Yemeni government and the Houthis concluded the final day of this round of prisoner swap negotiations in Switzerland by announcing the release of 887 prisoners during the holy month of Ramadan, followed by another round of negotiations after the agreed-upon prisoners are released.

The deal has renewed optimism for the release of thousands more detainees in the coming months, as well as the signing of a peace deal to put an end to the war.

Abdulkader Al-Murtada, head of the Houthis’ prisoner exchange committee, said that the deal would result in the release of 706 Houthi inmates and 181 captives from the Yemeni government and the Coalition to Restore Legitimacy in Yemen in three weeks.

The Yemeni government said in a statement that up to 706 Houthis would be “immediately” exchanged for 181 government inmates, including four journalists sentenced to death by the Houthis and 19 prisoners from the coalition.

The Houthis have also agreed to release former Defense Minister Mohammed Mahmoud Al-Subaihi; Gen. Nasser Mansour Hadi, the brother of former Yemeni President Abed Rabbo Mansour Hadi; the abducted sons of former Vice President Ali Mohsen Al-Ahmer; as well as Mohammed Abdullah Saleh and his cousin Afash, the siblings of Presidential Leadership Council member Tareq Mohammed Abdullah Saleh. The Houthis refused to release Gen. Faisal Rajab of the Yemeni army and Islah leader Mohammed Gahtan.

Despite criticism over the exchange of hundreds of Houthi combatants for Yemeni civilians, Yemenis hailed the prisoner swap deal and demanded its swift implementation.

“We hope that, unlike in the past, the Houthis will not violate this deal. We hope that the UN will exert direct pressure for the execution of this agreement prior to the beginning of Ramadan,” Hisham Al-Yousifi, a Yemeni journalist who was abducted by the Houthis in 2015 and released during a major prisoner swap in 2020, told Arab News.

Separately, the government of Yemen has accused the Houthis of killing an abducted Yemeni internet influencer in the province of Ibb following months of cruel maltreatment. Yemen’s Information Minister Muammar Al-Eryani said that the Houthis executed Hamdi Abdel-Razzaq, also known as Al-Mukahal, a social media influencer kidnapped by the Houthis in October for criticizing the militia’s corruption, its treatment of dissidents, and its role in exacerbating poverty.

Yemeni officials said that the Houthis had tortured the man for months before revealing his death on Sunday, saying that he committed suicide.

“The crime of liquidating the activist Abdel-Razzaq in the Houthi detention center in Ibb is not the first such incident. Hundreds of abductees and forcibly disappeared met the same fate in illegal militia detention centers,” the Yemeni minister said on Twitter.

Source: Arab News

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Tunisian President Saied’s supporters rally against ‘traitors’

20 March ,2023

Several hundred supporters of President Kais Saied rallied in Tunis on Monday to show their support for him after a crackdown on opponents accused of treason and corruption, and to reject what they call foreign interference.

“The people want the country to be cleansed!” they chanted in a central Tunis avenue. The opposition has held frequent protests against Saied, regularly drawing crowds of thousands, but his own supporters have only rarely taken to the streets.

Saied, who was elected in 2019, seized most powers in 2021 by shutting down the elected parliament and replacing the government before moving to rule by decree and rewriting the constitution.

In recent weeks police have started to crack down on opposition groups that accuse him of a coup, detaining politicians, labor union figures, judges, a prominent businessman and the head of an independent radio station.

Saied has denied mounting a coup, saying his actions were legal and necessary to save Tunisia from years of chaos, and has denounced his opponents as traitors, criminals and terrorists.

He has responded to expressions of concern at his moves by the United States and the European parliament by denouncing them as foreign interference and attacks on Tunisian sovereignty.

Some of the evidence presented against those arrested in recent weeks, and held in pre-trial detention on charges of conspiring against state security, was that they had met French or American diplomats.

“We support Saied in his campaign against the traitors and the corrupt, against those who ruined the country during the past decade and against external interference,” Lobna Souissi, one of the demonstrators, said.

Source: Al Arabiya

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Sudan: Prices Up, Buying Power Down, As Sudan Shoppers Gear for Ramadan

20 MARCH 2023

Khartoum / Nyala / El Fasher / Port Sudan — As the Sudanese public prepare for the Muslim fasting month of Ramadan, while the current official inflation rate has fallen to 63.3 per cent compared to 83.6 per cent in January, market prices for consumer goods are 'stable' at best, while some staples are rising due to demand, and travel fares are especially impacted by the knock-on effect of the high cost of fuel.

Sudan's Central Bureau of Statistics announced on Sunday, that the current annual inflation rate in the country is recorded at 63.3 per cent, compared to 83.60 per cent in January. Year-on-year, in March 2022, the Central Bureau of Statistics quoted that the annual inflation rate in the country fell to 258.40% in February from 259.8% in January.

Traders and shoppers in the main market of Nyala, capital of South Darfur, gave differing opinions when quizzed on prices this week, especially those related to the holy month of Ramadan. While some of them told Radio Dabanga that many commodities are unaffordable to consumers, others said that they have observed stability in the prices of some commodities, however purchasing power is diminished due to the economic situation in the country and the people's living conditions.

Radio Dabanga focused on the prices of ingredients used to make Ramadan beverages, including dates, and the prices were similar at all commercial sites. In the household equipment market, there is a high demand for plastic products, while more luxury glass products and others are witnessing stagnation.

Animal products

The prices for animal products have also risen in tandem with high production costs. Poultry farm owner Ahmed Belila told Radio Dabanga that prices for animal products are under pressure due to the high prices of production and transport, and weak purchasing power, which threatens to leave a large number of products out of the production cycle. Belila pointed out that Nyala consumes large quantities of eggs and white meat, however, "most of that is 'imported' from Khartoum, which makes it difficult for local businesses to compete".

Crop market

Merchants at the Um Dafusu crop market in El Fasher, capital of North Darfur, complained about weak commercial movement and the lack of interest among the public to buy. Crop trader Amna Abdelrahman attributed the lack of interest in buying to a lack of public liquidity.

Another crop trader, Mona, said that some prices are remarkably higher than this time last year; a a quarter of millet costs SDG 4,000 this year compared to SDG 3,000 last year, however a sack of baobab now costs SDG 20,000 compared to SDG 8,000 in 2022.

Wholesaler Magda Ahmed attributes the erosion of purchasing power to salaries not keeping pace with market prices.

Less travel

The head of the Travel Buses Association, Samir Arsh El Din Mukhtar, told Radio Dabanga that many travel companies are in danger of going out of business after suffering heavy losses. Muktar says that travel from Khartoum to the states has decreased by 80 per cent, "due to the reluctance of the public, and the high operating expenses".

The director of the Abu Hamada company operating on the Darfur-Port Sudan road. Confirmed to Radio Dabanga that travel is witnessing a severe stagnation due to the inability of bus owners to obtain fuel, and its high price.

Source: All Africa

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Jordan summons Israeli envoy to protest over flag of expanded Israel

20 March ,2023

Jordan on Monday summoned the Israeli ambassador to protest over the behaviour of an Israel minister who spoke at a podium that had an Israeli flag with expanded borders that incorporated the kingdom and the Palestinian territories.

Source: Al Arabiya

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UN food agency suspends relief operations in South Sudan

Benjamin Takpiny 


JUBA, South Sudan

The UN's World Food Programme (WFP) has suspended relief operations in South Sudan due to a recent armed attack on humanitarian workers.

"Following the latest attack, the World Food Programme has been forced to temporarily pause its convoy movements out of Bor, Jonglei State for the second time in as many weeks to re-assess mitigation measures," the WFP said in a statement.

"This corridor is critical for our food prepositioning ahead of the rainy season when roads are inaccessible and more than one million people in Jonglei and Pibor rely on the humanitarian food assistance that we transport along this route,” said Mary-Ellen McGroarty, WFP’s Country Director in South Sudan.

She said the safety and security of staff and contractors is paramount, and when incidents like this occur, it is women, men and children in desperate need of assistance who suffer the most.

South Sudan is one of the most dangerous places for aid workers, with nine humanitarian workers killed in the line of duty and 418 incidents reported in 2022.

Before this incident, since the beginning of the year, three aid workers were killed while on duty providing critical services to the most vulnerable affected by the protracted humanitarian situation.

In 2023, an estimated 9.4 million people in South Sudan are projected to need humanitarian assistance or protection services. The humanitarian situation is worsened by endemic violence, access constraints, operational interference, public health challenges and climate shocks such as flooding and localized droughts.

“While humanitarians continue to work tirelessly to provide the much-needed vital support, the continuation of violent attacks inadvertently hampers their efforts. We call on the authorities to take urgent action to improve security, to protect civilians, humanitarian personnel and commodities and bring perpetrators to justice,” said Meshack Malo, the Acting Humanitarian Coordinator for South Sudan.

The humanitarian community in South Sudan strongly condemns a targeted attack on humanitarian assets and staff in Jonglei state in which two people were killed and others seriously injured.

On March 17, a humanitarian convoy of more than 100 trucks transporting food and other humanitarian assistance came under attack. Two contracted drivers were shot in the attack, one fatally. Another person died in a road traffic accident as a direct result of the incident. A humanitarian staff was also injured and is currently receiving treatment. This is the latest in a series of escalating incidents targeting humanitarian convoys and workers.

There were more than 20 violent incidents against humanitarian staff and assets in January alone, more than double that in January 2022.

Source: Anadolu Agency

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